Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola Virus outbreak a ‘global health emergency’. The deadly virus has been rampaging through the West African countries of Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and has taken a thousand lives until now, with a further 1,711 reported cases. While health organizations marvel at the scale of the outbreak – the biggest viral outbreak to date – many countries have taken a quite cavalier approach towards the matter. In Africa, porous borders, lack of health infrastructure, a poor population that can’t afford care and an entrenched fear and suspicion regarding health care and foreign medicine have led to the disease spreading rapidly. With most rural West Africa living in communal family /tribe social structures, this highly virulent disease infects caregivers and close relatives. This criteria checks all the boxes when one looks at the Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and given the staggering amount of tepid, densely populated slums dotting the urban landscape, it resembles a powder keg waiting to ignite.

While the WHO and other health organizations are quite sensibly hesitating to press the panic button, they are giving strong instructions to quarantine and inspect travelers to the area and prepare for a possible outbreak. Pakistan, one of the three countries still unable to wipe out polio, a country that barely manages to grapple with dengue every year, appears characteristically unprepared. One expects local airports and health authorities to be able to coordinate and implement countermeasures on their own without political impetus – after all it is their job to do so. Yet there is no quarantine or treatment operation initiated, no information campaigns launched, no measures taken. The problem isn’t even acknowledged. Although the virus might never reach us, the whole affair betrays the old reactive rather than pro-active approach that has plagued our political setup. With the government fixated on dealing with a political virus of their own, abandoning all else, the people need to be their own guardian once more.