August 20, 2014:
Somalia has asked that no more peacekeepers from central or western Africa come to Somalia for a while. This is all about fear that the Ebola Virus outbreak in West Africa spreading to Somalia. Such a form of disease transmission via peacekeepers is not new or unique. In 2010 Haiti was hit with a new strain of Cholera that first appeared in Indonesia in 1961 and has spread around the world since then but never to Haiti. In fact, Haiti had never experienced any Cholera in all of its recorded history.
In the last two centuries there have been seven major outbreaks of Cholera worldwide but none, until recently, ever hit Haiti. The cause of the Cholera outbreak was traced to peacekeepers from Nepal. Over 8,000 people died from that Cholera outbreak, most of them Haitians. So far at least six percent of all Haitians have caught Cholera, which is a lot more survivable than Ebola.
While Ebola Virus does not spread as rapidly as Cholera, it is more likely to be fatal. Ebola is named after the Ebola River in northern Congo and this is where the first cases were identified in 1976. There have been no cases in Somalia although there was an outbreak in nearby Uganda in 2007. That outbreak killed 158 while an earlier one in 2001 killed nearly 500. Disease is a huge problem in developing countries and Central Africa is one of the world’s “disease incubators.” Medical skills are scarce in most developing countries. The loss of medical personnel to an epidemic not only has immediate effects (ie, fewer doctors and nurses to treat victims), but the loss degrades long-term development efforts.
The last thing Somalia needs right now is an Ebola outbreak, although having fewer peacekeepers will also be a problem, just a lesser one.