It sounds shocking to hear that the Ebola epidemic has been both a threat and an opportunity. A very serious threat since it has killed more than 10,000 people so far and could have turned into a world public health nightmare if it had spread farther, but also a useful opportunity since the latest outbreak in West Africa forced international organizations, governments and companies to address the issue and start building a long-term reliable response. “Ebola (…) gave us a serious test and now it’s up to us to learn the lessons. It taught not only WHO a lesson, but everyone, including policy makers,” Dr. Ngoy Nsenga wrote in the Ebola diaries.
Indeed, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa – mainly Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – has been unprecedented and has required the international community to come together like never before, UN’s Global Ebola Response team stressed. A number of health companies and universities’ medical branches have made finding an effective vaccine a priority like University of Texas’ Dr. Thomas W. Geisbert who announced two new vaccines have passed a critical test. In recent months, the situation has gradually come back under control with improving response indicators and Ebola numbers at their lowest totals since May 2014.
Concerns remain however, and current efforts must not falter. On the economic front, the UNDP reported, Ebola has been a catastrophe too, causing decline in foreign investment, stifled growth rates, reversed recent socioeconomic gains, aggravated poverty and food insecurity. West African nations that experienced low or zero incidence of Ebola have also been affected by the crisis since West Africa as a whole may lose an average of at least $3.6 billion per year between 2014 and 2017, a recent report highlighted. “(Although) the tide is turning, the epidemic is not over yet,” Helen Clark, former New Zealand Prime Minister and UNDP Administrator since 2009, warned.