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According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, the recent outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa might have originated in a toddler from the rural village of Meliandou, Guinea. After the child’s mysterious death in December 2013, symptoms, including high fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and organ failure, merged in family members who subsequently passed away. It is unclear how the 2-year-old, referred to as patient zero, was infected, yet his case has led currently to nearly 5,000 reported deaths and more than double the number of confirmed, probable and suspected infections in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone—the three countries most affected by Ebola. Because of porous borders, transborder trade and travel and, importantly, fragile healthcare systems, the current epidemic has spread rapidly into capital cities such as Conakry, Monrovia and Freetown. Assessing Ebola from a political economy perspective, this Development Viewpoint contends that while the countries most affected have been urged in the past to prioritise conventional macro-economic policies of liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation, they have not been similarly supported to build strong public health systems as a development imperative.




Centre for Development Policy and Research, SOAS, University of London