30 countries 'vulnerable to Ebola-style epidemic'

Rosie Vare
Detail of Ebola virus, computer rendering
Detail of Ebola virus, computer rendering

A new report = has identified that almost 30 countries could be vulnerable to an Ebola-style epidemic.

The report on the world's heath systems by Save The Children, entitled A Wake-Up Call: Lessons from Ebola, has ranked the world's poorest countries based on the state of their public health systems.

It found that as many as 28 countries could be at worse risk than Liberia which is one of the countries that has been worse hit by the epidemic.

The charity compared the number or health workers and government spending on mortality rates. The results showed that Somalia ranks lowest, followed by Chad, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Central African Republic (CAR), Guinea, Niger, and Mali.

Ebola has killed more than 9,500 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea and the charity has warned that the increasingly mobile population heightens the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Two new zoonotic diseases, which can be passed between humans and animals, are developing each year and this is putting children at a greater risk.

To avoid the spread of the virus, Save The Children wants the international community to invest in stronger and more effective healthcare systems, although donors such as the UK in Sierra Leone, the USA in Liberia and France in Guinea have already played an important role.

Although progress has been made, the report also states that, despite advice, the government in Sierra Leone are still spending just $16 per person rather than the recommended $86.

The report also argues that strengthening the healthcare systems in the affected countries would have cost just 1.58 billion US dollars whereas the international Ebola relief effort in West Africa has cost more than double at 4.3 billion US dollars.

The charity have warned that although immediate support is still needed in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, there are lessons to be learnt that can be applied to other vulnerable countries around the world.

Save The Children's chief executive, Justin Forsyth, said: "A robust health system could have stopped Ebola in its tracks saving thousands of children's lives and billions of pounds.

"Without trained health workers and a functioning health system in place, it's more likely that an epidemic could spread across international borders with catastrophic effects.

"The world woke up to Ebola but now people need to wake up to the scandal of weak health systems, which not only risk new diseases spreading, but also contribute to the deaths of 17,000 children each day from preventable causes like pneumonia and malaria."

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