Committee: World Health Organization
The Ebola crisis in the DRC has raged for a year and a half and killed over 2,000 people. The mortality rate of this Ebola outbreak has been greater than 60%, with just 1070 of the infected surviving. This is the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history, rivaled only by the West African outbreak a few years ago. There are significant improvements in the situation compared to the outbreak in West Africa, the most important being the availability of new vaccines and experimental treatments. And on a global scale, nations worldwide have had chances to create emergency response plans and tighten security around their borders to prevent disease from spreading across borders. Unfortunately, the political climate in the DRC has made it difficult, if not impossible, to administer the new treatments and bring an end to the outbreak. Mistrust of aid workers has led to violence against them, forcing many organizations, including Medecins sans Frontieres, to leave the site.
Although there have been no cases of Ebola in Australia, this outbreak is a global issue. In this modern and globalized world, no country’s issue is its own, especially when it comes to disease. Travel in and out of affected areas poses an enormous risk in spreading diseases across borders, particularly for larger nations such as Australia. To combat this, Australia has developed a set of strict guidelines to follow when dealing with an Ebola-infected individual. Australia has not yet had to use it and hopes to mitigate the issue in the Congo before the epidemic spreads to other nations.
Thus far, Australia has donated AU$4 million to the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies and AU$9.5 million to the Cash Window of the World Bank’s Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility. These contributions are to ensure effective mobilization of the WHO in response to outbreaks and to improve national and international responses to outbreaks when initial containment proves fruitless. Australia is willing to pull further donations from the Indo-Pacific Security Initiative, but, as with the last outbreak, Australia will not be willing to send in health workers to aid with the crisis. The government of Australia cannot consciously encourage doctors and nurses to enter such a dangerous situation, not simply because of the risk of infection, but also the violence that has been perpetrated against such people.
Australia believes that the issue that needs to be overcome in this situation is not the disease itself but the complex political situation. The world possesses the medical power to treat this outbreak, although additional funding is still necessary. The biggest problem, though, is mistrust and violence. The conflict of armed groups makes it extremely dangerous for health workers to simply be in the area. A cease-fire, then, is a must in this situation, even if just for six months. Additionally, mistrust of the government and misinformation have turned ordinary citizens against health workers, making it much more difficult to keep the outbreak under control. An aggressive public awareness campaign is necessary to change this – health workers must work closely with local leaders and the community to ensure that the Congolese are involved in the process. These changes, along with additional funding from present nations will change the climate of the DRC and promote positive progress in facing this epidemic.
- Aileen Liu