Ebola and capitalism in crisis

http://latuffcartoons.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/obama-speech-united-nations-2014-ebola-russia-islamic-state.gifIll. from: prolecenter.wordpress.com

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are some of the poorest countries of the world which, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), have just one to two doctors to treat every 100,000 people and these doctors are heavily concentrated in urban areas. Liberia and Sierra Leone still bears the scars of war over who controlled vast resources (with good help from Western interests: France, UK, USA), before this outbreak had just 50 doctors in public hospitals serving a population of 4.3 million. According to BBC the health spending per person in 2012 in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea stood at $96, $66 and $32 respectively. By comparison the UK spends $3,648 and US $8,895 (BBC News, August 20, 2014).

The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim writes in a Washington Post article in August that “If the Ebola epidemic devastating the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had instead struck Washington, New York or Boston, there is no doubt that the health systems in place could contain and then eliminate the disease.” He’s damn right!  He also painted a picture of what he called the reality: “The Ebola crisis today is a reflection of long-standing and growing inequalities of access to basic health care. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone do not have the staff, stuff and systems required to halt the outbreak on their own.” What he however failed to see is that this reality is a reflection of the crisis of capitalism, especially in neo-colonial countries. These countries along with Nigeria, which also has cases of Ebola virus imported into the country by a Liberian-American, are rich in natural resources. But the domination of these economies by imperialists and multinationals, as well as the implementation of the World Bank and the IMF promoted neo-liberal capitalist model that discourages public spending, has made it impossible for them to build a strong health system against infectious disease like Ebola, let alone safe water and sanitation. The capitalistic system including the World Bank has made a totally unequal world by not caring in areas which doesn’t make interestingly enough profits.

This explaines something else important in global world capitalism. The system is in crisis and have been for years. The so called profit rate have steadily diminish since the 1960ies, in Marxist terms called Tendency of Rate of Profit to Fall. That means that it’s not enough profit around and therefore the capitalists are looking for new ways and areas in the market. «Everything» can practically be bought and sold, like water, soil (parts of sovereign nations to multinationals), patented seed, and healthcare of course. There is no profit in state controlled services, unless one brakes it up in pieces for markets. And then some markets are more lucrative than others. The poorest countries in this Ebola times, in West Africa, are not! But in this Ebola outbreak when it gets big enough, the capitalist market can find profit to make, called disaster capitalism!

https://ivarjordre.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/7a8b8-purification-rituals-lr.jpgPhoto from: deliriousheterotopias.blogspot.com/

To exemplify this bad and very unequal situation, Peluola Adewale, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI Nigeria) writes on socialistworld.net:

«For instance in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy with a population of 170 million, has just four laboratories that are capable of carrying out test on Ebola virus. But even these laboratories are reportedly only funded with grants from foreign charity organizations. Besides, it is big shame that a year before 2015, the target year of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), hundreds of Nigerians are still dying annually from preventable diseases such as cholera – a water-borne disease. According to the government statistics, there were 22,347 cases of cholera between January and June this year, out of which 288 people have died in Nigeria. These cholera outbreaks, which have been underreported in the media, reveal much more the monumental failure of the anti-poor, capitalist government than Ebola virus disease which has recorded 8 deaths in Nigeria.

The situation is so bad that in Liberia, which is the worst hit with over 1000 deaths (now it’s over 2000, my comment) as of September 5, that the hospital where the first two Americans that contracted Ebola in the country were kept, before being flown to the US, does not have facility to do such a basic test as a complete blood count (CBC). CBC is used to determine if somebody has an infection. Another example was that a starving Ebola patient escaped from the isolation centre in Liberia to search for food at a market as the food supply was inadequate at the centre.»

Another important issue is vaccine. The same story is coming up with capitalist multinationals lack of interest in developing adequate and sufficient enough vaccines. No profit – no vaccine (no profit in poor black people in Africa)!

Private companies doesn’t do the bulk production of vaccines needed, neither the nations. Unless some diseases benefits us or protects us in the West, or both. Peluola Adewale, from Democratic Socialist Movement writes:

«However, the US did not start the funding of research on Ebola in 2004 with intention of confronting the EVD outbreaks in Africa but as part of George Bush administration “Project Bioshield”’ which is a counter-measure against the use of the killer virus and other agents as biological weapons. The absence of any feasible threat of biological weapons, especially after the hysteria generated by September 11 subsided, meant that there were no urgent efforts to fast tract the development of vaccine or treatment of Ebola.

It is clear that without massive funding from governments and international agencies the multinational pharmaceuticals will not produce the vaccine or treatment for Ebola even if all the trials are successful. What this has called is massive public spending on health care under a democratic control of workers especially in neo-colonial countries. This is more imperative as evidence has shown that a strong health system, along with provision of safe water and sanitation, can reduce significantly the fatality and incidence of Ebola and other infectious diseases. This has also put onto today’s agenda the call for public ownership of big pharmaceutical companies so that research and production of any medicine will be on the basis of the needs of humanity and not profit of a few. But all this will not be possible without a mass movement and struggle for a socialist change.»

An extreme example of parasitic capitalism is this «story» taken from blog.foreignpolicy.com:

Let’s say you are someone who has recently returned from traveling in West Africa. You have visited an Ebola-ravaged country. You are understandably worried about contracting the disease during this worst-ever epidemic and, upon returning home, you catch a fever. You might then go online to try to find information about the disease and to assess whether the crippling fear you are experiencing is, in fact, well placed. That search might lead you to Ebola.com, but little do you know that that site is nothing but a moneymaking ploy.
In today’s information economy, there are few more useless money-grubbers than domain squatters, and that is exactly who owns Ebola.com. Blue String Ventures, the company sitting on the domain, is asking for a mere $150,000 to transfer ownership of the site.
«Ebola.com would be a great domain for a pharmaceutical company working on a vaccine or cure, a company selling pandemic or disaster-preparedness supplies, or a medical company wishing to provide information and advertise services,» Jon Schultz, Blue String’s president, told CNBC. «There could be many other applications as well. With so many people concerned about the disease, any advertisement referring people to Ebola.com should get an excellent response.»
So far, more than 4,000 people have died of the virus, and the director of the World Health Organization, Margaret Chan, recently called the outbreak «unquestionably the most severe, acute public health emergency in modern times.» Naturally, there is money to be made.
Schultz called his $150,000 price tag «not a tremendous amount for a premium domain.»


Facts: Ebola was identified 40 years ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then called Zaire. Two hundred and eighty people died in this first reported outbreak, on the banks of the river Ebola. In  total 318 people was infected, the fatality rate was 88 percent.

For the next 40 years, Ebola was a deadly disease that affected remote, isolated, lightly populated areas of Central Africa. Because it killed so many of those infected quickly, the disease most often was contained to the small community it ravaged.

It was noticed because it was so virulent, but not a lot of effort was put into studying it and learning how to treat it because it only affected a remote, very poor and less significant part of the world in the eyes of the capitalists — where Black Africans live. The total number of people killed was also much less than those killed by more common diseases like malaria, tuberculosis or even flu.

It appears that the reservoir of the disease is among fruit bats. Once the disease jumps to humans, it is spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual. Chimpanzees and gorillas also get infected and die from Ebola because they eat the fruit contaminated by the bodily fluids of the bats.

But as Ebola was popping up now and then in Central Africa, the world was growing much more connected. Ecological changes also concentrated the fruit bat populations. African countries grew more connected, with people easily moving back and forth on better roads and air planes.

The biggest and most widespread outbreak of Ebola began in the West African country of Guinea in March, spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. At present over 4000 have died and over 8000 have been infected by the disease.

About ivarjordre

painter, activist, writer, revolutionary, human
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