Following the death last week from Ebola of Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, the physician who had lead Sierra Leone’s response to that country’s outbreak and who had also been serving as Medical Officer for AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Sierra Leone Country Program and its free AIDS treatment clinic, officials from AHF and Dr. Khan’s family hosted a Press Teleconference criticizing the global response to the epidemic.
The first Ebola case was identified in Guinea in December 2013, and since February 2014, the disease has reached epidemic scale spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and as of last week, 2 cases in Nigeria, yet until Americans fell ill two weeks ago, there was little concern—or action—from global health leaders.
WASHINGTON (August 5, 2014) Following the death last week from Ebola of Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, the physician who had lead Sierra Leone’s response to that country’s outbreak and who had also been serving as Medical Officer for AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Sierra Leone Country Program and its free AIDS treatment clinic, officials from AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) hosted a Press Teleconference Thursday, August 7th at 3:00pm ET (noon PT) to discuss the global response to the epidemic. Participants included: Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation President; Tom Myers, Chief of Public Affairs & General Counsel for AIDS Healthcare Foundation as well as Sahid and Alhajie Khan, brothers of Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, who died last week of Ebola in Sierra Leone.
According to FOX News, The first Ebola case in this outbreak was identified in Guinea in December 2013. Since February 2014, the disease has reached epidemic proportion, spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and as of this week, 2 cases in Nigeria. Yet until three Americans fell ill two weeks ago—Patrick Sawyer, who died of Ebola in Nigeria while in transit from Liberia to Minnesota, as well as Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writelbol, who have been medically evacuated from Liberia to the U.S. for treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta—there had been relatively scant media coverage of Ebola (Several New York Times articles in March as well as reports by NPR’s Jason Beaubien, who spent over a week reporting directly from Africa).
Of far greater concern: global and US health leaders have been slow to respond to the situation on the ground in real time. Now, the UK’s ‘The Telegraph’ reports that, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan said the response has been ‘woefully inadequate’ and as a result, the situation is potentially ‘catastrophic.”
“This outbreak has been unfolding for far too long without an appropriate global response,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Until Americans fell ill or died a few weeks ago, there was really little to no concerted or organized global health response—including from the World Health Organization—or much media coverage. Now, Google News has over 4,700 hits on the word ‘Ebola.’ At present, it seems the primary concern is to save the two remaining Americans, an initially understandable, heroic and compassionate action, but one that also betrays an ultimately myopic view of our role as a world leader, particularly in the health and sciences. Remember: there are over twelve-hundred Africans who have been infected with Ebola since December, 887 of whom have died as of yesterday.”
In addition, according to Australia’s ABC News, “More than 60 doctors have already died of Ebola, hampering efforts to control the outbreak.”
“Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea—the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic—are consistently ranked among the world’s 20 poorest countries,” added Weinstein. “Since last week, the World Health Organization has commendably stepped up with its $100 million pledge of assistance and expertise. But where have they been since February, with any rapid response strike team?”
“Sadly, I also do not hold out much hope that President Obama or his administration plan to offer any change—any innovative or aggressive assistance on the Ebola epidemic wreaking havoc in Western Africa—during, or as a result of this week’s summit of African leaders in Washington.”