Fighting Ebola With … Shoes?  

by Dish Staff

Stephen T. Fomba, who grew up poor in Sierra Leone, suggests it:

I didn’t mind growing up this way, for I didn’t mind work and did not know what I did not have. But I hated having to make these walks barefoot because we could not afford shoes. The injuries were too much. I sustained burns from the hot ground and rocks; wounds from sharp stones, thorns, and even broken bottles; infections from unknown bacteria; and various ailments—red skins, open sores that took very long to heal, fevers. Even when hurt or ill, I had to keep walking, often as many as 20 miles a day, usually under a hot sun.

We rarely think about the perils of walking barefoot. But according to one widely cited estimate, some 300 million children on earth don’t have shoes. Many illnesses and infections come from the ground, caused by stepping on sharp objects or touching saliva, blood, or bodily fluids. And it’s not merely those who can’t afford shoes who have to go barefoot; many millions of people around the world own poor quality shoes, but have to be careful not to overuse them to avoid early wear and tear. Shoes are for special occasions.

Blair Glencorse and Brooks Marmon instead focus on the “clear link between this governance failure and the current health crisis”

 In places where governments are so rarely willing or able act in the interests of their citizens, we can begin to understand why the disease continues to disseminate. Health services, which barely exist in many places, are shunned because the unsanitary conditions of hospitals and heath centers have made them hubs for the spread of the virus. Many hospital staff — already underpaid and ill-equipped — have become victims themselves. Foreign health workers sent to help are ignored and even chased away by scared locals. A group of Liberians explained to us recently that they think Ebola is a ploy by the government to steal even more money from Western donors.

As a result, the Ebola challenges are now evolving into larger problems of instability in the region. Economic activity has ground to a standstill as borders have closed, movement is restricted, and flights are canceled.  This is happening in countries where up to 50 percent of the population already earns less than 50 cents a day. Mistrust, misunderstandings, and ill-will are growing as people continue to die.

Laurie Garrett, who “was in the Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1995,” lends her perspective:

How long will this state of siege last? Recent statements from WHOMSF, Samaritan’s Purse, and other institutions leading the fight alongside the governments warn the world that it will be at least six months, and quite possibly a year, before Ebola can be defeated. Despite all the brouhaha here in the United States and Canada about application of experimental drugs and vaccines never clinically tested for safety or effectiveness to the African crisis, this siege will end not with magic bullets, but smart, heroic strategies that find infected people swiftly, place them behind cordoned quarantine barriers, and bury the dead rapidly after their demise without families’ contact or viewing. Yes, it is heartless and can seem cruel, but strategic isolations, coupled with vast urban campaigns of capture of the infected constitute the only hopes for ending the state of siege.