Once again, it appears that racism may be keeping the U.S. from focusing sufficient resources on stopping the spread of the Ebola virus.
Previously, AtlantaBlackStar pointed out that racism and greed were largely the reasons why the world still didn’t have an effective Ebola cure — for-profit companies up until now have seen very little upside in aggressively expending resources on a disease largely affecting poor, Black countries.
Now we have lawmakers like Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana holding up the $1 billion the U.S. has pledged to stamping out the virus. Why? Because the plan “focuses on Africa,” according to a story in The Nation.
Vitter had the gall to actually put his specious concerns down on paper. This is as a major metropolitan region of the nation, Dallas, is still grappling with widespread fear about the spread of a disease that was transported here from Africa.
“I ask you to oppose fully allowing the additional $1 billion in reprogramming requests until previously requested additional information is available for members of Congress to be fully briefed,” he wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services committees, according to The Nation.
President Barack Obama announced the $1 billion aid package with much fanfare last month, traveling to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to demonstrate the urgency.
“In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes that we have not seen before. It’s spiraling out of control,” Obama said Sept. 16. “It is getting worse. It’s spreading faster and exponentially … if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us. So this is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security — it’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic. That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease.”
In his speech, Obama said the U.S. would do the following: create an “air bridge” to more quickly transport health workers and medical supplies into West Africa; establish a staging area in Senegal to send out personnel more quickly; create a new training site to train thousands of health workers; deploy U.S. Public Health Service personnel to new field hospitals the U.S. is setting up in Liberia; and, through USAID, help distribute supplies and information kits to hundreds of thousands of families.
Nearly a month has passed since his speech, but Congress still has not authorized the release of the funds — despite world leaders like United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pleading for assistance.
Vitter has been exhorting his colleagues to stop the plan because it “focuses on Africa, and largely ignores our own borders,” The Nation said.
Clearly, if the disease is contained and controlled in Africa, it won’t reach our shores — but that’s logic that seems to have escaped Vitter.
“Speed is the most important variable here,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said at a World Bank conference. “This is controllable, and this was preventable. It’s preventable by investing in core public health services.”
On MSNBC, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, called the delay in Congress “unconscionable” and said the committees should release the full funds this week.
“In contrast to the lack of questions we asked when we made a decision to get involved in a war in the Middle East that’s going to cost us $10 billion a year, we seem to have a different level of inspection when it comes to questions being asked about money that’s going to protect the United States from a very real and very present threat of Ebola,” Murphy said.
Many lawmakers are focusing their efforts on banning travel to the U.S. by citizens of the affected West African countries — rather than trying to help those countries slow or stop the spread of the disease.
It should be noted that Africa has seen 24 previous outbreaks of Ebola over the past three decades and none of them bloomed to the current level of crisis, where many experts fear that the devastation to the infrastructure and finances of countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone could take decades to repair.
As the editors of The Nation pointed out this week, global indifference allowed the virus to expand this time, along with frayed public health systems in these impoverished nations.
“This isn’t a natural disaster,” international health crusader Paul Farmer told The Washington Post. “This is the terrorism of poverty.”
One can’t help but to conclude that the world was indifferent to the plight of these nations because they were poor, Black and seen as unimportant to the operations of nations in the West.
As proof, just consider how the U.S. reacted when one person with the disease stepped onto American soil and was exposed to others before the disease was detected. Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia died this week in a Dallas hospital, but he demonstrated to anyone who cared to notice how much more interested Americans became in Ebola when there was a possibility that a few of us might contract the disease — while more than 3,700 and counting have died in West Africa.