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No man is an island

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on November 19, 2014 Published on November 19, 2014

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The Ebola epidemic hurts everybody, equally

India has reported its first case of Ebola. Health authorities say a young man who returned from Liberia tested positive despite having been treated for the disease, and cured. This, along with similar instances in other geographies, illustrates the key takeaway from the virus outbreak: in a deeply integrated and interconnected world, epidemics anywhere can mean epidemics everywhere. And that means the response to deadly diseases should be collective, immediate and globalised. No country can turn away from supporting efforts to tackle emergencies saying it hasn’t hit its gates yet. No country or business is insulated from the rest of the world.

Courtesy Ebola, several multinational mining companies in West Africa have been forced expansion plans on hold, costing thousands of jobs. Arcelor Mittal has reportedly delayed a $1.7 billion expansion at its iron ore mine in Liberia. So has Rio Tinto which stopped work at its $20 billion iron ore mine in Guinea, which has reported nearly 2,000 Ebola patients. London Mining, with business in Sierra Leone, applied for bankruptcy last month after iron ore prices crashed owing to Ebola concerns, among others.

Several Chinese and Indian companies are present in many African nations. But we are yet to see a concrete and comprehensive action plan from these countries to tackle the virus spread in West Africa. That the recent outbreak started in 2013, says a lot about the collective responsibility — or lack of it — of nations and trade blocs.

The private sector should also bear some share of the blame. It was widely alleged that companies doing business in Africa do zip when it comes to helping these countries maintain clean environs and healthy lifestyle. It’s high time industry bodies with interests in Africa started initiatives to make and keep Africa clean.

Jinoy Jose P is Assistant Editor

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Published on November 19, 2014
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