Tag Archives: Ebola epidemic in Liberia

Neoliberal healthcare in Liberia

Liberia Ebola epidemic August 27 2014

This is neoliberal healthcare in Liberia, a country in West Africa homesteaded by former US slaves in hopes of creating a better world. But when the elite eventually hitched their fortunes to US militarism & neoliberalism (the barbaric phase of capitalism) they entered the twilight zone & this is the catastrophic result for working people.

This man dropped dead in the street–likely from the Ebola epidemic raging in the country. Could a society render a man more indignity because, as we can see from people standing around, there is a stench to death? And because they’re afraid of contacting Ebola, he is forced to die not just with indignity but alone & untended.

Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is a Harvard-educated banker who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her “non-violent struggle for the safety of women & for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Well bully for her! Just like Obama of a dozen wars won the damn thing. Sirleaf calls herself the “Iron Lady” for making the hard decisions–like allying with US foreign policy; incarcerating a journalist who reported on government corruption; opening Liberia to foreign corporate investment, bribery, & back-room deals (in particular oil companies to develop Liberia’s oil reserves); flagrant nepotism in appointing family members to key positions in government & the plunder operations; allowing 8,000 UN “peacekeeping” troops in Liberia (since 2003).

“Foreign investment” (i.e., neoliberal plunder) has continued to grow since Sirleaf took over in 2006. In that time the US has contributed over $16 billion in “bilateral assistance” (i.e., weaponry & bribery) to Liberia. Sirleaf claimed in an interview that this economic growth included expanding education & healthcare institutions as well as infrastructure like roads & power. How does she explain this man dying in the unpaved street? How does she bullshit around the complete lack of medical facilities in West Point, the slum epicenter of Ebola in the capital city of Monrovia? Is it possible “trickle-down economics” don’t work any better in Liberia than they do in the US–or even worse?

“Give us four more years & the results of all of this growth will be felt,” Sirleaf told an interviewer in October 2013. It took less than a year for the Ebola epidemic to expose the utter political bankruptcy of dancing with the devil of neoliberal predation & of placing private fortune over fundamental human needs like education & healthcare. But all this comes as no surprise to the working people of Liberia who consider their country the most corrupt on Earth & who have every compelling reason in the world not to trust their government’s methods of dealing with the Ebola epidemic.

When you look at the nexus between the Liberian & US governments, then the economic, political, & social nexus between Liberian & US working people becomes entirely evident & international solidarity absolutely essential. American working people bankroll tyranny & it’s high time we got off our asses to oppose it.

May our brother, whose name is not given, RIP.

(Photo by Abbas Dulleh/AP)

Ebola epidemic in Liberia

Liberia; Ebola *(John Moore:Getty Images) August 22 2014

Photojournalism is coming to be neoliberal barbarism’s own worst enemy. Photos are circulating today of a US doctor named Kent Brantly, who contacted Ebola in Liberia while working at a hospital. He & another US health worker named Nancy Writebol who also contacted Ebola were the first patients to receive an experimental treatment at an Atlanta hospital; both were released this week.

Ebola virus disease kills between 50% & 90% of those infected because there is no effective treatment yet available. It was first identified in Sudan & the DR Congo in 1976 & several sources claim the disease typically occurs in tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa, as if the epidemiology was related to climate & geography. The largest epidemic to date is currently in West Africa, affecting Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, & Liberia.

If you look at photos of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, they are stark contrast to those of Brantly & Writebol jubilantly leaving the hospital. The images are described in media as “harrowing”–& that would be an understatement. The Liberian health department has dispatched “burial teams” all suited up in head-to-toe protective clothing to enter homes, spray disinfectants, & remove those who’ve died in the epidemic. Many of the living victims are moved, apparently forcibly, to quarantine in abandoned schoolhouse facilities without a stitch of furniture, including mattresses to lie on & without any medical personnel in sight. There is one photo of a very sick man on a flimsy mattress just feet away from a man who has already died. There is an image of a bereft woman standing over her husband lying on a bare floor after he fell & was knocked unconscious; again, no beds or medical staff in sight. There are images of family members forcibly removing their children from the isolation wards. And there are images of Ebola victims lying on bare ground.

On August 16th, a quarantine center in Monrovia was taken over by protesters & a number of patients fled. What can explain desperately ill people getting up off the floor & making a run for it when the Liberian government claims they’re being monitored? Perhaps officials could explain what “monitor” means. Some observors claim slum dwellers most hit by the epidemic believe the epidemic is a hoax manufactured to bring in international aid money. So perhaps they could also explain this widespread distrust in the government by the urban poor?

Liberia was founded in 1820 by freed slaves from the US who hoped for greater opportunity in Africa since the US was still under slavery. It was formed as a country in 1847 & was led by those colonists for over 130 years. It began to “modernize” in the 1940s with investment from the US & a military advised & bankrolled by the US Pentagon. It’s been all downhill from there, including economic & political instability & two civil wars with an estimated death toll of over half a million people. Today, 85% of the people live below the World Bank’s international poverty line of US $1.25 a day. Since a loaf of bread in Liberia costs $1.88, you can see that 85% of the people are also severely malnourished.

When the second civil war ended (in 2003), 95% of Liberia’s healthcare facilities had been destroyed. Many highly contagious diseases are now widespread, including TB, malaria, & diarrheal. Is it any wonder!?

It’s noteworthy that Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the 2011 winner of the ignominious Nobel Peace Prize. She is a strong ally of the US, including offering Liberia as a headquarters for AFRICOM. So if you want to know why Liberians don’t trust their government & why desperately ill people are fleeing medical quarantine more akin to solitary confinement in a gulag, take a closer look at the policies & alliances of president Sirleaf. If your president lies down with fleas, you get up with Ebola & TB, if you get up at all.

This image is a very sick 10-year-old boy lying in an alley on cardboard after a clinic refused to treat him because of the danger of infection.

Once again: oppression, thy name is “Made in the USA.” And once again, oppression won’t be decisively ended until US working people get off their butts & begin to play the role thrust upon them by privilege & US colonialism & act to restrain neoliberal barbarism paid for by their tax money & in their names.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)