In early August the World Health Organization said the spread of Ebola was a problem of global scale. It recommended the introduction of emergency regime in all the countries where the threat had been revealed. Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. It is transmitted to in several ways to others, for instance, through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola, objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus, and infected animals. Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats and it is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, food. The virus is mainly limited to West Africa. According to the recent World Health Organization (WHO) data, the number of people infected by the Ebola virus in West Arica has crossed 5,000. The United Nations agency confirmed on Sunday that while the number of suspected and confirmed cases stands at 5,335 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the death toll has risen to 2 622. The number of people infected and killed by Ebola infection is the highest in Liberia, WHO said. The current outbreak in West Africa, (first cases notified in March 2014), is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It has also spread between countries starting in Guinea then spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia, by air to Nigeria, and by land to Senegal. The lack of doctors, equipment and medicine negatively affected the local health care capability to fight the decease.
There had been no vaccine until recently. Some time ago US scholars said they made a discovery to change the situation. The leading role in the implementation of US anti-Ebola program belongs to the Pentagon.
Under pressure to do more to confront the Ebola outbreak sweeping across the continent, President Obama announced on September 16 an expansion of military and medical resources to combat the spread of the deadly virus outbreak in West Africa, including the deployment of 3,000 American troops to build treatment centers. «It’s spiraling out of control, it’s getting worse, it’s spreading faster and exponentially», Mr. Obama said of the epidemic while touring the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta. «The world is looking to us, the United States. It’s a responsibility that we embrace» and the countries in West Africa desperately needed more treatment beds, health-care workers and supplies to combat the spread of the disease. The President said the crisis is a national-security threat to the U.S. because «we could be looking at hundreds of thousands» of dead if the epidemic gets worse, which could lead to governments and societies collapsing. «It’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic», he emphasized.
President Obama went beyond the 25-bed portable hospital that Pentagon officials said they would establish in Liberia, one of the three West African countries ravaged by the disease. Mr. Obama will offer help to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia in the construction of as many as 17 Ebola treatment centers in the region, with about 1,700 treatment beds. Senior administration officials said Monday night that the Department of Defense would open a joint command operation in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate the international effort to combat the disease. The military will also provide engineers to help construct the additional treatment facilities and will send enough people to train up to 500 health care workers a week to deal with the crisis. The Pentagon expects to have the first treatment units open within a few weeks, part of the heightened U.S. response that also includes training more local health care workers. The United States already had spent more than $100 million fighting the outbreak. Obama administration officials said the cost of the military response would come from $500 million in overseas contingency operations, such as the war in Afghanistan that the Pentagon already has asked Congress to redirect for West Africa. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the 3,000 military would provide direct care to Ebola patients. Among the other initiatives, the military will:
— Set up a headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia, led by Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, head of U.S. Army Africa.
— Build a regional transportation and staging base in Senegal where the U.S. will help coordinate the contributions of other allies and partners.
— Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, designed to help healthy people caring for Ebola-stricken family members. That includes 50,000 that the U.S. Agency for International Development will deliver to Liberia this week.
— Carry out a home - and community-based campaign to train local populations on how to handle exposed patients.
There will be another US foothold in Senegal.
The United Nations Secretary General welcomed the US government statement expressing its readiness to provide aid as part of international relief effort.
The US policy on Ebola could be welcomed if not for the Obama’s words about the situation becoming an issue at the top of national security priorities list. The diversion of funds from the operation against the Islamic State tells a lot.
It’s worth to note that all the countries hit by Ebola are oil and gas rich. The region of West Africa accounts for a third of the world’s new oil discoveries, especially in the Nigeria’s Niger Delta basin and the Gulf of Guinea. According to the US Geological Survey, the West African Coastal Province has an estimated 3 200 million barrels of oil. Oil exploration off the coast of West Africa has surged since 2007. New finds have been made in Liberia and Sierra Leone, while Mauritania’s discoveries over the last decade remain to be replicated. Niger has now become a producer and Mali awaits discovery of commercial hydrocarbons. There has also been a burst of exploration activity in the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gabon with the hope of finding Jubilee-type giants in the Cretaceous fan formations and pre-salt structures.
According to British Petroleum estimates, all the proven oil reserves in West Africa have grown by three times in the recent 20 years up to 7, 5 billion tons or about a half of overall reserves in Africa. The share of West Africa (from Angola to Mauritania) has increased from 2, 4% up to 5 %. The total cost of this oil in current prices is 3, 5 trillion dollars.
Washington launched an anti-Ebola campaign at the time Libya had trouble with oil production and the Iraqi oil fields were seized by Islamic State militants. After Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown in Libya the oil production in the country has gone down by ten times. It has fallen from 1, 5-1, 7 million barrels down to 150 thousand barrels a day. The Islamic State offensive in the north of Iraq and the attacks against oil production infrastructure in the heart of the country threaten Iraqi oil exports.
All these factors make West Africa a region of priority for US foreign policy. US Anadarko Petroleum Corporation has made a discovery and became the leading explorer and producer of Sierra Leone offshore oil. The U.S. oil firm continues to find oil and gas in African waters. African Petroleum Corp. was founded in 2003 by transnational Timis Corporation with headquarters in London. In Liberia it has become the operator and holder of 100% working interest in production sharing contracts. Timis Corporation also has interest in mining (diamond extraction) and biological research. Some say that the outbreak of Ebola, the US campaign aimed against rolling the virus back and new wells drilled in the West Africa are the links of the same chain. If it is true, then the US has launched a well-planned and masterly conducted operation to boost its clout in the region fallen under China’s influence.
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China gets 30% of consumed oil from West Africa. The recent events in the western part of the continent reflect the process of competition between the United States and China, the country importing 30% of consumed oil from Africa. China has greatly increased its presence in almost all African states, the investments and managers are ubiquitous there. It builds schools, hospitals, factories and lends credits of favorable terms. China has poured billions into Africa in recent years – buying up natural resources and infrastructure. Chinese influence has grown massively in recent years across Africa, fuelled by natural resources such as oil, iron and copper. These are shipped to China and then end up back in Africa in the form of vehicles or footwear. Trade deals with more than 40 countries have been signed, including Uganda, Kenya and Algeria. The trade turnover between China and Africa has reached $200 billion.
In July 2011 British Prime Minister David Cameron called the Beijing position as ‘Chinese intrusion’ into Africa with the aim of establishing ‘authoritarian capitalism». In response, the African countries were unanimous in their opinion that ‘European capitalism’ established since the unpleasant times of ‘European colonization’ is hardly the best alternative for the Chinese ‘occupation’. It’s remarkable that even in 2002 during the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the president of Tanzania Benjamin Mkapa announced in his speech to the Chinese side: «You understand us better than the people from the West and you can help us fulfil our hopes for an African renaissance».
In only ten years China made the United States roll back to the second position in Africa. Washington learned the lesson well. Now we are witnessing the US military presence on the rise in the western part of the continent.