Gino’s Diary – January 30, 2015
The Ebola epidemic forces us to reflect. Two out of three patients have died in Africa. One yes, two no. One survives and two die.
In Europe and the USA on the other hand, a total of 25 patients have been treated. Five died and twenty survived. A 66% mortality rate in Africa, 20% in the rich countries. Why such a difference? Or, in less impersonal terms: why does the same illness leave room for hope for some and condemns others to death? The answer is simple: the difference lies in the “treatment.” There are first and second class citizens: those with a right to treatment and those without.
When I was a student I had the honor of meeting and listening to the great expert of ethics and medicine, Giulio Alfredo Maccacaro. In the early ’70s he wrote “…nobody teaches or says, and so nobody knows, that before the industrial revolution the average lifespan wasn’t affected by the social class one belonged to“ and that after the industrial revolution “death and illness learnt to discriminate more and more severely and precisely between the rich and poor of a single collectivity…”
On the Titanic, only 4 out of 143 women traveling in first class died (and 3 of them chose voluntarily to stay aboard), while 81 out 179 women traveling in third class drowned with the ship.
It is the same fate of Ebola patients in Africa and in the rich countries.
We’re all aware there’s still no specific cure for Ebola, but “curing Ebola” is possible “outside Africa,” and has worked on 80% of the patients.
So why not make it available “inside Africa” too, in Sierra Leone for example?
“There’s a lack of resources in Africa” – that’s the refrain, the “explanation” that then justifies the decision to continue discriminating, to continue with the medicine “for the poor.”
“More complex forms of treatment have to be evaluated, you have to consider the context” is the phrase that’s endlessly repeated at every meeting by the various organizations, institutions, and experts.
We know the context of Africa, and of Sierra Leone: we’ve been working there for 14 years. But we’re not here to justify it. On the contrary, we want and need to change it. That’s the huge undertaking being carried out by EMERGENCY‘s international and local staff: building a space of shared rights and offering medical treatment without any type of discrimination. The tools made available to save a life (a few or a lot, effective or useless) must be made available to everyone.
A lack of resources? Let’s create them.
There’s never been any form of intensive care for Ebola (and unfortunately, not only for Ebola) in Africa? Let’s build one.
In Europe and in the USA all the patients have been treated (and four out of five survived) in Intensive Care Units, not through isolation only, and have received 24/7 assistance.
It has to be done, and it can be done. It’s a moral and scientific duty, and it’s a feasible project as these photos testify. We’re not here in Sierra Leone just to offer “compassion,” but real medical care.
— Gino Strada,
Freetown, Sierra Leone, January 30, 2015
To help Ebola patients in Sierra Leone receive the same high quality care found elsewhere in the world, click here to donate now.