2 September 2014

Ghana: The African Union Must Take the Ebola Case to the U.N Security Council

Photo: Boakai Fofana/allAfrica
A burial team carries the body of a suspected Ebola victim from a community in Monrovia under the watchful eyes of police officers.
press release

EBOLA is truly terrifying. The reason is that even killer malaria does NOT slay the doctors and nurses who try to cure it: But Ebola does. Only intensified scientific research can find a cure for Ebola. But unfortunately, there are two types of scientists in the world: those .who are so concerned about the pain and death caused to humans by illness that they will even sacrifice their own lives to try and cure deadly diseases, and those who will use their scientific skill to kill humans on the orders of a government made up of people endowed with the same universal human rights as those they want to kill.

I wonder how many Ghanaians who walk past the Noguchi Institute in Ghana know about the scientist after whom the institute is named. He was Dr Hideyo Noguchi, who helped to find a way of inoculating humans against yellow fever. He died while carrying out research in Accra and Lagos in 1927-28.

But there are other types of scientists who, for money, prestige or "patriotic" reasons, will use human beings to carry out research to hurt or kill humans. Notable among these is Dr Wouter Basson, a.k.a. "Dr Death", who developed bio-chemical weapons for the apartheid regime of South Africa, some of which were meant to kill only Africans. Scientists with a similarly racist mentality also surfaced in the United States, where in 1972, it was revealed that a group at the Tuskegee Institute had, for decades, been using poor African-American share-croppers in to test drugs against the terrible disease of syphilis.

Anyone aware of what some scientists can do will be remiss in not asking: since it is reported that some in the scientific community are suggesting that the current Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia may have originated from "a toddler" who ate an infected bat and got infected with the Ebola virus, why had bats waited until 2014 to transmit the dis- ease to humans, when Africans had mercilessly been putting bats - and other game animals - on their menu, forever?

Another question is this: since scientists from Tulane University, in New Orleans, USA, had been carrying out research for about 10 years in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, into haemorrhagic fevers, including Lassa and Ebola, why has no-one officially associated the research they were carrying out with the Ebola outbreak?

The only [indirect] indication that something may have gone amiss with research in the three countries comes from this Reuters report about the US Government stopping its funding of the research. (Reuters is one of the most reputable and accurate news-gathering organisations in the world), Here is the Reuters report: QUOTE: Exclusive: U.S. cuts resources for project involved in Ebola battle in Sierra Leone by Toni Clarke Washington Thu Aug 7, 2014 4:04pm EDT (Reuters)

The U.S. government will not renew funding for a major research project into Lassa fever, a decision that will, in turn, cut resources for a facility in Sierra Leone that is at the forefront of the current battle against the Ebola virus. The National Institute of Health rejected a proposal from New Orleans- based Tulane University to renew the five-year contract, which expires in November, according to a July 30 letter from NIH reviewed by Reuters. The expiring contract is worth $15 million. NIH declined to comment on the decision, citing "federal government procurement iritegrity rules." (Emphasis added)

The facility, at Kenema Government Hospital, was set up a decade ago to test and treat Lassa fever. Now it is being used to treat patients stricken with Ebola. [Emphasis added] Both are haemorrhagic fevers caused by distinct families of viruses. Ebola is the most lethal, leading to death in up to 90 percent of cases. [Reuters adds that the project "also spends $100,000 a year on a laboratory in Irrua, southern Nigeria. The lab diagnosed the first case of Ebola in that country. It is not currently treating any patients". ]

Last week, the [Kenema] facility's director and chief physician, Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, died after becoming infected with Ebola. Its head nurse and two other nurses have also died, and some other staff is sick. The Ebola outbreak, the worst ever recorded, has killed 932 people across Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

As part of the Tulane research project, which was designed to identify diagnostics and treatment, for Lassa, researchers support the Kenema facility, which has a 5,500 square foot laboratory and similarly-sized hospital ward. Blood samples from infected patients are used to develop tests and diagnostics. [Emphasis added]

Funds from the Tulane project support most of the facility's operations, including $100,000 a year to supplement meagre government salaries received by some 30 staff - including doctors, nurses, lab technicians and field workers - said Robert Garry, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Tulane, who heads the program. The program also supplies laboratory equipment, including protective garments, pipettes, and all materials needed to analyse blood samples.

It is unclear whether the facility will be able to raise funds from other sources to replace the Tulane project money.

In the letter to Tulane, a contracting officer for the NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Liem Nguyen, said the proposal had been rejected "based on technical factors, scientific priority, [emphasis added] and availability of funds."

The proposal, the letter added, "falls short of those considered by NIAID to offer the best opportunities for the most successful accomplishment of the acquisition objectives."

NIH declined to provide further comment on the matter.

The Sierra Leone facility's resources are strained, members of Tulane's team say. Dr Daniel Bausch, an associate professor in Tulane's tropical medicine department, who was at the facility for three weeks in July, said last week that constant fatigue among overworked and poorly trained workers may have led to mistakes. He saw some staff not wearing protective suits.

The number of patients in the ward has topped 50, far outstripping its capacity. UNQUOTE

Now, I am constrained to ask: is it unreasonable to suspect that the US Government now wants, for reasons best known to itself, to dissociate itself from the research? Does it know something it is not prepared to share with the rest of the world? I ask these questions because it seems to be extremely callous of the US Government to be cutting off funds from a research project it has hitherto been happily funding, at a crucial time when the facility's efforts are most in demand!

If research into diseases like Ebola is not a scientific priority now (as the NIH claims) then when will it be? Even if it was really done for budgetary reasons alone, does the US Government not realise that the timing of the announcement on funding can give rise to the worst forms of speculation, to say the least?

There are so many questions to answer that a group of doctors from French-speaking Africa have asked the African Union to urge the United Nations Security Council to set up an international investigatory commission - comprising both African scientists and non-Africans, to investigate the origins not only of Ebola, but also of HIV/Aids.

A prominent Ghanaian doctor, who has been promoting the idea of a Think Tank for the Ghana medical profession, has circulated the proposal by the French-speaking doctors to Ghanaian doctors, presumably with a view to getting them to support the proposal for a UN enquiry.

Another question is this: given all the circumstances surrounding this Ebola outbreak and the panic it is causing, had 'the same circumstances been found to relate to a research project operating in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, or Birmingham (England) or Toulouse, in France, would the authorities not investigate the operational methods being used at the facility?

Would the scientists there be allowed to go unchallenged as they uttered inanities about the consumption of trout or pheasants? Why do people like the WHO and even the Red Cross appear to operate with different criteria when it comes to the outbreak of diseases in Africa?

Well, we do have an African Union and we do have scientists operating in the West who are of African descent. Some of the latter are so incensed by what they believe is "racist science" in the West that they have called on the AU to ask the UN Security Council to order an investigation into the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. They also want an investigation into the outbreak of HIV/ Aids in Africa.

It won't surprise anyone if the AU does nothing. It would just go to show that the organisation is bent on remaining an irrelevant entity of the sort that Ghanaians call Simpa Panin or Opanintoto. (An "elder" or a senior official who sleeps on the job).

Source: The Ghanaian Times

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