Editorial: Trust is key to fight Ebola



On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a “health emergency of international concern”, a formal designation that underscores just how serious the situation has become. It is hoped that this declaration will mobilise desperately needed funding — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars — to implement a new plan to control the epidemic.

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” said WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

But solving this crisis requires more than just money.

When the outbreak was officially announced on August 1 2018, most experts thought it would be contained relatively easily. For one thing, the DRC has had plenty of experience in dealing with Ebola outbreaks — this is the 10th such outbreak in the country. For another, for the first time responders had a weapon with which to fight the virus: a new vaccine that had proved effective in trials.

But 2 522 cases of the disease and an estimated 1 698 deaths later, it is clear that international efforts to prevent the spread of Ebola have failed. Last month, several cases of the virus were recorded in neighbouring Uganda; this week, an infected priest made it all the way to the regional capital Goma, a major transport hub, where he died.

Several factors have hampered the medical response. One is the location of the outbreak, in the northeast of the country, which is both extremely poor and in the midst of conflict. It has been difficult, if not impossible, for medical teams to access all the affected areas.

Another factor is a widespread mistrust of local authorities and the international community, which is hardly an irrational sentiment. After all, the Congolese government is one of the most corrupt and least effective in the world; and, in the DRC at least, the international community has a long track record of failing to protect citizens (take, for example, the peacekeepers — including South African soldiers — who have been repeatedly implicated in sexual assaults).

Increased funding will undoubtedly help the international community to scale up its Ebola response. But don’t expect the outbreak to be contained until, somehow, local communities are given good reason to trust the responders.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


ConCourt settles the law on the public protector and interim...

The Constitutional Court said it welcomed robust debate but criticised the populist rhetoric in the battle between Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Minister Pravin Gordhan

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday