Ebola in West Africa: What Australian politicians haven’t been talking about

What Australian politicians don’t seem to have been discussing is involvement in West Africa to assist with the growing, regionally devastating but globally relevant Ebola epidemic.

Since being identified in Guinea in March 2014 cases of infection spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone, since June has been reported to be increasingly out of control, and has more recently spread to Nigeria (including cases in Lagos, a major global trade hub) and possibly Senegal. The World Health Organisation (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in particular have been highlighting the inadequacy of the global response to this regional disaster for months now. The health infrastructure of these countries has been overwhelmed, as have organisations such as MSF: there are shortages of medical professionals, beds, protective gear, co-ordination… big problems which wealthy countries such as Australia can and should assist with. According to MSF:

It is clear that the Ebola epidemic will not be contained without a massive deployment of medical and disaster relief specialists from states. The governments of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone are doing everything they can to try to fight this epidemic. They desperately need international support. Their doctors and nurses having been dying and risking their lives on the front line of this outbreak

Providing funds is not enough. Available infectious disease experts and disaster relief specialists from countries with these capacities must deploy teams to the affected countries. In addition to a larger deployment of medical and epidemiological specialists, additional laboratory capacity for Ebola testing; ambulances and helicopters to safely transport samples and suspected cases; and supplies to ensure safe burials are needed immediately.

The Australian government has announced the contribution of $1 million to the WHO for the West African emergency response, however we should be urgently discussing what technical and logistical support we can provide to this unprecedented humanitarian emergency.

The Black Sea: what Australian politicians have been talking about

A ceasefire has been signed between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian seperatist rebels, which is good news presumably for civilians whilst this lasts (it sounds like this is not a popular move with combatants on either side); there is an intelligent discussion by Mark Adomanis in Forbes of why encouragement of an on-going guerrilla war against Russia, if they are involved in ‘an invasion’, would be a disaster for Ukrainians and should not be encouraged by NATO. Meanwhile, the Australian government has announced the opening an embassy in Kiev and plans to provide “non-lethal” support to the Ukrainian military.

A little further southeast of the Black Sea The encouragement of guerrilla warfare via proxy populations appears to be what is occuring in Iraq, with Australia having announced the supplying of weapons to the Kurdish military to combat ISIS. A key difference to the difficulties being faced by Ukraine is that Australia has played a role in the political destabilisation of Iraq and Syria over the past decade, but what both situations have in common are their complexity. In a post on the Lowy Interpreter, James Brown has discussed ‘Five fallacies in Australian thinking on Iraq’, highlighting the lack of sober and honest debate by Australian politicians and journalists over our involvement in the conflict, in particular regarding ‘why’, ‘how’ and what the ramifications might be.