Monday September 1 2014

Ebola: We should not blame the gods, the problem is poverty

Daniel Kalinaki’s column, “Ebola: The hunter-gatherer gods must be angry with African rulers, tycoons”, provides food for thought. Kalinaki should read Partner to the Poor by Paul Farmer, and other works by renowned medical anthropologists. Nice metaphor about the gods; however, it cannot be denied that socioeconomic factors ultimately lead to the spread of infectious diseases.

The reason people in specific places die from Ebola, Aids, tuberculosis, etc., is because they are poor and the healthcare infrastructure in those communities is also poor! Healthcare is expensive; it is a market commodity.

Infectious diseases are unwittingly the major cause of morbidity and mortality in underdeveloped and medically underserved communities, and the gods have little to do with that. Capitalism, social violence, racism... would turn the right stones. Even here in the United States, the epicentres for infectious disease are poor inner city communities and “rural areas” which lack access to healthcare. And the inhabitants of these communities are usually minorities like Blacks and Latinos.

There must be a better reason for such global trends besides the gods and the lack of charity from our leaders and tycoons. Yes, incompetent leaders would be a nice place to start the discussion, but that would be skimming the surface. Many Africans, and other poor people around the world are trapped and the circumstances that determine their health outcomes are often beyond their control. Do not get me wrong, rich people also suffer from infectious diseases.

Food for thought: Why isn’t Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or anorexia nervosa African public health problems? Yet, malaria, TB... diphtheria (infectious diseases in general) are major public health problems!

The microbe is nothing; the terrain, everything – Louis Pasteur 1822-95.

Bannet Asingura