Liberia’s Information Minister, Lewis Brown, is warning that the slow international response to the Ebola outbreak in his country could drive it into the kind of factional fighting it saw in the early 2000s. As the epidemic has spread, the country’s economic and political infastructure has been pushed to its breaking point, as Brown told Agence France:
“Hospitals are struggling, but so too are hotels. Businesses are struggling. If this continues the cost of living will go to the roof. You have an agitated population.”
“The world cannot wait for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, to slip back into conflict, which could be the result of this slowness in response.”
And Liberia isn’t the only country where Ebola could have serious political repercussions, as this report from the non-profit organization International Crisis Group makes clear:
In the three most affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the Ebola epidemic has exposed citizens’ lack of trust in their governments and the grave potential for deep unrest in these already fragile societies. In all three countries, past civil conflicts fuelled by local and regional antagonisms could resurface. In Guinea, the government’s poor response has stoked historical tensions between the state and local communities in the forested areas of the south east, where the epidemic started. In Liberia, the hardest-hit with approximately half of the total deaths, and Sierra Leone, the governments have substituted a largely misguided military response for robust focus on medical needs.
This is why Ebola is so scary: not only because the death tolls could climb rapidly if it spreads farther into nearby countries like Nigeria, but also because it could collapse entire states in an already dangerous and unstable region.