|India’s food crops are currently GMO-free – but that’s about to change very soon, if we don’t act now and stop Monsanto’s latest attack.Monsanto wants to introduce its genetically engineered food crops, starting with its pesticide-resistant corn, despite facing local opposition.
Monsanto’s pesticide-soaked, monoculture corporate agriculture is awful for farmers and the environment. And once Monsanto gets control of a country’s food system, it’svirtually impossible for farmers to get free.
Monsanto’s business model is simple: Get farmers hooked on its genetically engineered, pesticide-resistant seeds. Force those farmers to buy new seeds every year — or get sued. And sell them massive amounts of pesticides to spray on those seeds.
That’s why, once Monsanto gets its foot in the door, it’s able to almost completely take over a country’s agricultural system.
We’ve seen it all happen before in India. A decade ago, Monsanto managed to get its cotton seeds approved in India. Now over 95% of the cotton crop is owned by Monsanto.
And Monsanto has the same plan for India’s food crops.
Wrecking ecosystems, selling toxic chemicals, and driving small farmers out of business are all in a day’s work for Monsanto. But it’s not too late for India, if we act now.
SumOfUs was created to support people’s struggles against corporate greed around the world. And we are already fighting back against Monsanto — we helped the tiny state of Vermont raise almost a quarter of a million dollars to defend themselves against Monsanto’s bullying. If we can raise enough pressure on the Indian government to refuse Monsanto’s GMO crops, we can stop it from exploiting a market of 1.25 billion people.
Monsanto says GM corn trial in final stage in India, Reuters, 27 February 2015
The United Nations Association held an Election Hustings with parliamentary candidates: Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour (Lewes & Seahaven); Clarence Mitchel, Conservative (Pavilion); Davy Jones, Greens (Kemp Town) and Paul Chandler, Lib Dem (Kemp Town).
Alex Mabbs came to the United Nations Association (UNA) meeting to give a talk on climate change.
Alex Mabbs is a United Reformed Church minister based at the Brighthelm centre, in Brighton in Sussex, England.
Alex Mabb’s blog = https://mabbsonsea.wordpress.com
Tom Lines came to the United Nations Association (UNA) meeting to give a talk of the city of London as a centre of financial power in Britain.
Tom Lines is a Writer, Economics, trade and development consultant.
You can learn more about Tom Lines and his work at
and follow him on Twitter @TomLINESorguk
Title: Honest Economics
“Updates on Bernanke’s new big-bucks finance job, GM avoids billions in victims’ claims for faulty ignitions, Seattle capitalist raises all workers to minimum $70k/yr, Americans’ self-delusion on inequality, private profit trumps public policy, and anti-student-debt activism. Responses to listeners: impact on China if capitalism’s relocation stopped. Major discussions of economics of wages and prices, narrowness of economics education, and basic global economic development issue.”
Economic Change and Personal Life Crises
Updates on car parts industry, German courts cut Über, Russia’s economy grows despite sanctions, no recovery in declining teaching positions for new US PhDs in humanities, and huge Mexican strikes against Driscoll berries produced for US. Responses to listeners on (1) countries’ currency manipulations and (2) role of unions in workers’ coops. Interview Dr. Harriet Fraad, mental health counsellor, on how capitalism’s changes since 1970s have disrupted the personal lives of US men and women and creative solutions.
System Change: Then and Now
Updates on Trans-Pacific Partnership secrets, the Heinz-Kraft merger, the overly costly, underperforming US medical care system, fines for Graco selling faulty child car-seats, China’s real-estate bubble, and estate tax repeal by Republican House. Response to listener on property: private versus public. Major discussion of how system change happened in the past and and how in capitalism today.
“Economics of Corruption”
Updates on Yellen press conference,“Blockupy” protests in Europe against ECB and austerity, New York mayor DiBlasio signs bill for worker coops, and important fight over closing Sweet Briar college. Interview with veteran reporter Bob Hennelly on economics of US political corruption with special focus on his native New Jersey.
“Housing, Cities, Suburbs”
Updates on pizza politics, changing currency values, and tax-cutting politicians’ wild claims. Responses on workers coops’ competitiveness and on ‘unfree’ agricultural markets. Interview Walter South on economics of housing and dangerous economics of US cities and suburbs.
“Economic Decline and Growing Resistance”
Updates on taxis vs Über vs driver coops, an apology on Detroit, International Womens Day, and cutting workers’ compensation. Response to listeners on the economics of debts, past and present. Major discussions of (1) resisting economic decline: Minnesota governor, Emma Thompson and Pope Francis, (2) Wisconsin governor presides over economic decline, and (3) extremes of economic inequality.
Updates on Europeans’ struggles against austerity policies. Response to questions on how workers’ self-directed enterprises solve various problems (especially financing and different skill levels). In depth critical discussion of ‘free enterprise’ and the free enterprise system.
An interview with Jeff Faux about the American’s Economy
This week John Weeks discusses further the issue of Cuba with Elizabeth Dore talking about “Voices from the Cuban Street”
The photograph is of Elizabeth Dore and Regla Hernandez Gomez, one of the people she interviewed for her 10 year study of at
Attitudes of Cubans toward the revolution.
First of a new series of commentary on economic conditions and policy in the UK and beyond from John Weeks.John Weeks is a professor emeritus of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and author of The Economics of the 1%: How Mainstream Economics Serves the Rich, Obscures Reality and Distorts Policy. His recent policy work includes a supplemental unemployment program for the European Union and advising the central banks of Argentina and Zambia. More info on John at http://jweeks.org/
Last week we were delighted to welcome to Radio Free Brighton a group from Kenya including Willice Onyango who were here as guests of the University of Brighton.
Willice Onyango is an international youth advocate. His work centers on global advocacy work that puts young people at the heart of development policy and practice, prioritizing the post-2015 agenda.
Willice Onyango is Chairperson of the International Youth Council Chapter in Kenya, a Children and Youth Working Group nominee to the Beyond 2015 Drafting Committee and Africa Youth Ambassador for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
Willice has served as Youth Mobilizer for Rio+20 Dialogues, Africa Youth Representative to the Africa We Want, Youth nominee to Beyond 2015 Drafting Committee and Youth Representative at the Post 2015 High Level Panel Meetings of Imminent Persons meetings in Bali, London and Monrovia.He has convened, spoke at, participated in major national, regional and international conferences.
He holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Diplomacy and Disaster Management
This week Dave Jones interviews climate science professor, Paul Beckwith.
This week Dave Jones discusses Fracking with Claire Robinson and Atlanta Cook from Frack Free Sussex.
This Week Dave Jones discusses politics with two students from the University of Brighton, Yasmin and Callum.
This week Davy jones interviews Malcolm Cook, director and presenter of Growing Concerns on LATEST TV.
Davy Jones, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Brighton Kemptown discusses protest music with Robb Johnson and Bethan Prosser
A campaign group in Brighton has arranged a protest to coincide with a council meeting, after proposals to close children’s centres across the city.
Brighton Children’s Centres Campaign (BCCC) will lead the march, which will go from New Road adjacent to the Pavilion Gardens to Hove Town Hall.Thursday February 26.
The march will coincide with a council budget meeting at Hove Town Hall to approve plans to downsize and close children’s centres in the city.
Cllr. Sue Shanks, Chair of the Children & Young People Committee at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “We are facing cuts in our budget, but we are not proposing to close centres, our proposals are about raising tax.
“I welcome the protests — I wish more people protest about the things they do not like.”
The public consultation about the proposals to close and reduce centres across the city received nearly 1,000 responses.
Last month the proposals were announced, which includes a cut of over £800,000 to children’s services across the city.
The BCCC is urging supporters to come along to the march, with signs and pictures.
Davy Jones’ guest this week is Marina Prentoulis who is Senior Lecturer in politics and media at the University of East Anglia. She is also a member of Syriza and of the Greece Solidarity Campaign. Davy and Marina discuss the recent elections in Greece and the impact of these events in Europe.
This week Davy interviews Ken Montague who is building local support for the “Time to Act on Climate Change!” national demonstration on March 7th? You can find out more from http://www.campaigncc.org/TimetoAct
38 Degrees member David Fisher has started a petition calling on Brighton & Hove Council to refuse planning permission to turn the Brighton Hippodrome into an 8 screen cinema. He’d like to see it restored and turned into a live venue, what do you think?
Here’s what David says:
“The magnificent Brighton Hippodrome needs your help to save it from being wrecked. It is a unique theatre building, listed Grade II* by English Heritage because of its historical and architectural significance.
After closing as a variety theatre in 1965, it was a bingo hall until 2007. The stunning interior, however, is still in remarkable condition, with very little deterioration.
Suddenly, in mid 2013, a proposal to convert the building into an eight-screen cinema emerged. The plans involve demolishing the stage, the fly-tower, all the back-stage facilities, the stalls and the orchestra pit. Without these it ceases to be a theatre.”
Click here to sign his petition now:
If you have any comments on David’s campaign, you can join the conversation on the 38 Degrees Facebook page herehttps://www.facebook.com/peoplepowerchange/posts/427851554028295
LISTEN HERE TO DAVY JONES WITH LAUREN CAPE-DAVENHILL FROM GATWICK DETAINEES WELFARE GROUP ON THE PROPOSED WALK AND ARTS PROJECT ‘REFUGEE TALES’ More info at www.refugeetales.org and http://www.gdwg.org.uk
Saturday 13th – Sunday 21st June 2015
Gatwick Detainee Welfare Group’s unique walk follows the North Downs Way from Dover to Crawley via Canterbury along some of the paths that were taken by the Canterbury pilgrims many centuries ago. We will be reflecting on the many long and dangerous journeys that refugees make fleeing war and persecution, seeking a safe place to live.
They welcome walkers to join the 80 mile walk - for the whole route, a day or a few days.
Following a colourful launch event at the beginning of the walk in Dover, arts events (drama, art, music, poetry and prose) inspired by The Canterbury Tales will be held at every evening stop on the walk.
This week Davy Jones talks to John Allcock from Brighton People’s Assembly about the event Sat Jan10th, Brighthelm Centre 10–4.30pm
Power to the People? A citizens’ conversation about democracy, cuts and resistance.
Why does a crisis of the banking system mean that we have to have our benefits and services cut?
What gave the Ritzy cinema workers the courage to strike and win a living wage?
What happened when a group of young single mums refused to accept eviction and rehousing far away from their community in East London?
How can we stop our NHS being dismantled piece by piece?
Come to Power to the People? to learn about what we’re up against and discuss how to take back our power and make our voices heard, here in Brighton.
Campaign stalls– Films
– Discussion and skill sharing workshops
– Free lunch
Saturday, 10 January 2015 — 10:00 to 16:30
BN1 1YD Brighton
Who is Davy Jones? Davy Jones, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Brighton Kemptown, and regular host of the Politics Show, answers questions posed by Jackie Chase of Radio Free Brighton and other volunteers from the radio station . LISTEN HERE
Saltdean Countryside Alliance LISTEN HERE
This week Davy Jones talks to Lisa Forrest from the Saltdean Countryside Alliance. A Planning application has been received by Brighton and Hove City Council for 36 houses on the edge of the downs in Rottingdean, at the northern end of Westmeston Avenue, to the rear of Bishopstone Drive and Falmer Avenue, Saltdean and can be clearly seen from Dean Court Road. To find out more and raise objections go to
City of Sanctuary LISTEN HERE
This week Davy Jones meets Jenny Lansdell from City of Sanctuary.City of Sanctuary is a national network, a movement of local groups made up by businesses, community organisations and individuals, all with one thing in common; their belief that sanctuary seekers should be welcomed, and that their contribution to society should be celebrated.
City of Sanctuary Brighton http://www.cityofsanctuary.org/bright…
Discussion of the Drugs Issue LISTEN HERE
This week Davy and Steve Peake discuss the issue of drugs and effective ways to approach the subject through our community and government policy and alternative approaches being taken in other countries
My journey back to Ebola ground zero By Peter Piot Nearly 40 years after he was first dispatched to investigate a mysterious new virus, Peter Piot returns to a village – and a people – changed for ever by the advent of Ebola
“Get on that plane now! You know, they are crazy here!” shouts the manager of Kin Avia, a rare charter airline in the Democratic Republic of Congo with a decent safety track record. It is nearly 10am and for the past few hours we have been trying to get through all the formalities required to travel from the dilapidated domestic airport of Ndolo in the heart of Kinshasa to Bumba – in other words, to get through immigration for a domestic flight. Bumba is the nearest airport in northwestern Congo to our final destination, Yambuku, a village in Equateur province about 1,000km from the capital. I am spending two weeks in the country to celebrate my 65th birthday and to thank the people who played such an important role in two defining experiences of my life: investigating the first known outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever in 1976 and uncovering a significant heterosexual epidemic of HIV/Aids in 1983. I am here with an American film crew making a documentary on epidemics, along with my wife Heidi, an anthropologist, and my friends Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director of the DRC’s National Institute for Biomedical Research, Eugene Nzila, a pioneer of Projet Sida (Africa’s first big Aids research project, founded in 1984) and Annie Rimoin, an epidemiologist from UCLA.
When I was 27 and still in training, I had one of the greatest opportunities an aspiring microbiologist could dream of: the chance to discover a new virus, investigate its mode of transmission and stop the outbreak. It all started when my laboratory at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp received a thermos from what was then called Zaïre. It contained the blood of a Flemish nun who had died of what was thought to be yellow fever. From that sample, however, our lab isolated a new virus, confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and subsequently called Ebola, after a river about 100km north of Yambuku, the centre of the epidemic. It turned out to be one of the most deadly viruses known. In early September 1976, Mabalo Lokela, the headmaster of the local school, had died with a high fever, intractable diarrhoea and bleeding. His death sent a shockwave through the small mission community. Soon the hospital was full of patients with a similar illness and nearly all died within a week.
This was the beginning of the first known outbreak of Ebola, a virus that is believed to circulate in bats, which accidentally infects people through contact with blood or infected droplets. There are four known subtypes affecting humans, including the “Zaïre” type, the most deadly strain, with more than 90 per cent mortality. Transmission between people is through contaminated injections, contact with blood and body fluids, sex, and it probably passes from mother to child. Approximately one week after infection, patients develop severe fever, diarrhoea and vomiting. They then start bleeding and are affected by “disseminated intravascular coagulation”, whereby small blood clots develop in the body’s blood vessels, ultimately resulting in generalised organ failure, shock and death one week after the onset of symptoms. Close to 90 per cent of the 318 people diagnosed with the disease would eventually die during the Yambuku outbreak. So would more than half of the hospital staff and 39 people from among the 60 families living at the mission. The entire region was devastated, with some villages losing one in every 11 inhabitants to Ebola.
Getting on a military C130 to Bumba in 1976 for the three-hour flight over the world’s second-largest equatorial forest was less complicated than catching a passenger flight in 2014, even though back then we had to load a Land Rover, medical equipment and barrels of fuel on to the cargo plane. We were a Zairean, an American, a Frenchman and two Belgians in a plane – like one of those jokes. But the pilots were in a foul mood. They resented having to fly to the epidemic zone. Hadn’t fellow pilots told them that birds were falling from the sky over the forest around Yambuku and that dead bodies were lining the roads? When we landed, the plane came abruptly to a halt but the pilots never came out of the cabin. They didn’t even stop the engines. They wanted to take off again as soon as possible and avoid any contact with locals. When I walked through the open loading dock at the back of the plane, I saw hundreds of people, staring at us in silence, followed by shouts of “Oyé! Oyé!” when we drove out the Land Rover. Ours was the first aircraft to break the quarantine that the whole region had been put under because of the epidemic and expectations were high that we would stop the disease, and bring food and medicines. As soon as the plane was unloaded, the pilots shouted “Bonne chance!” and off they went.…
This time there is a slight sense of déjà vu when we finally land on the red-earth airstrip of Bumba. The Congolese pilot recognises me from his time in the Zairian air force in the 1970s. “Has Ebola started again?” he asks anxiously. Only a few people are at the airstrip, apart from the unavoidable immigration and security officers. One man is waiting for us just as he was in 1976: Father Carlos Rommel, the Flemish Catholic parish priest of Notre Dame, who has been working in the Congo for 51 years, mostly in Bumba. He had arranged all our logistics to perfection, just as he unflappably manages a hospital, a parish and four schools in a country where nothing can be taken for granted. Our convoy of jeeps makes its way to the Bumba mission, where we will stay for the next few days, just as we did nearly four decades ago. Not much has changed – there is not a single paved road in this town of about 150,000 people and very few houses are made of brick or cement. This used to be a major port on the Congo River but years of war, looting and corruption have taken their toll. River boats are gradually returning – the 1,000km journey to Kinshasa can take up to six weeks in the dry season – always overloaded with people, cars and goods. Despite being located on the mighty Congo, there is no running water in Bumba. Girls and women fetch water from the river, except in the neighbourhoods where Father Carlos has drilled wells. He seems to be the only real investor in infrastructure and social services in the city, sometimes using his own money. There is no electricity, besides what is produced by a lonely and noisy generator. The first thing I see when visiting the public hospital is a large black truck near the entrance with “Morgue” painted across it. Not encouraging. Cattle graze between the pavilions. The hospital is largely empty as patients have to pay for everything and there are hardly any medicines, including anti‑HIV drugs and tests. For years, the state has not provided any support.
Together with Muyembe and Rimoin, two of the world’s leading experts on monkeypox, I see a nine-year-old girl who has contracted the disease from her brother. DRC has the world’s largest number of cases of this disease, which resembles the now eradicated smallpox, and is acquired from contact with various wild animals, not just monkeys. It is another illustration of how animal viruses can cause infections and even epidemics in humans (both HIV and influenza come from animals). In contrast to the public hospital, the mission-run Notre Dame hospital is clean and full of patients but even here there is a shortage of medicines. Muyembe and I have lengthy conversations about the causes of this total neglect of people’s health and what we can do about it as academics. He repeatedly reminds us all of the motto of the University of Kinshasa, where he had been dean of medicine, and which was also the slogan of the Catholic high school of Bumba: “No science without conscience”.… Looking across the courtyard from our bedroom at the mission evokes one of the most dramatic moments of my stay in 1976. Early one afternoon, an Allouette helicopter (a gift from French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing to Zaïre’s president, Mobutu Sese Seko) arrived in Yambuku to take me to meet some high-ranking US officials in Bumba. As it was getting very dark, and I resented that these men did not want to come to where the action was, I decided not to fly. It saved my life – the helicopter crashed in the forest 15 minutes later and all three passengers died, including a worker from the mission who had taken my place in order to visit his family in Bumba. I always felt that poor man died for me.
Three days later I had to recover the bloated corpses after a hunter found them, two hours’ walk from the nearest village through almost impenetrable forest. As there were no coffins, I had to make them myself at the mission workshop back in Bumba, which was the only place that had wooden planks. For years I could not talk about it and even now seeing a pile of planks at that workshop is extremely emotional. Bumba, this morning, offers many distractions as well as memories but I am impatient to see Yambuku. Road R337 is a red soil track through the green foliage of the dense equatorial forest. It is dry season and during a four-and-a-half-hour drive of more than 100km, we see two trucks full of goods and people, four motorcycles and many more people on or pushing bicycles, loaded with rice, peanuts, dried fish and bush meat, manioc, palm oil and bananas. As we wend our way down the bumpy road from Bumba to Yambuku, I’m firmly holding on to a handle so as not to be ejected from the front seat and my head is spinning with memories of my first visit. The forest is a bit further away from the villages now, with trees having been cut down for fuel over the years, and there are far more children than I remember. There are also some new cement buildings in several of the villages we pass – often only one among the mud huts and Kingdom Halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There used to be palm oil plantations here, owned by Unilever, but these have been abandoned along with the paddy fields because of the wars and a deterioration in infrastructure and transport. With them went the last jobs, and many people are now living in a state of autarchy – fleeing into the forest for weeks at a time when various armed groups have invaded the area.
As we get closer to Yambuku the driver points to an overgrown area which was part of a village whose inhabitants had fled during the Ebola epidemic and never returned. Suddenly, the forest opens up and the road meanders through neglected coffee plants and bamboo before we finally see Yambuku. We are welcomed by sector chief Christophe Nzangolo, two doctors and four Congolese nuns, who have been waiting for us since noon on the terrace of the mission. Warm beer is served, formalities are exchanged and we are directed to our rooms. They are in dire condition, as is the rest of the building. The Catholic mission in Yambuku was founded by the Order of Scheut in the 1930s with the support of a colonial cotton company in the then Belgian Congo. It was later joined by Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary. For many years, the village was a flourishing centre for education, healthcare and agriculture, and in some ways was a picture-postcard location. But the 1976 Ebola epidemic, combined with a sharp economic downturn and serial wars, has led to a decline on all fronts. The mission was looted first by Mobutu’s soldiers and most recently by Bemba rebels, who were fighting the current government of Joseph Kabila and stole the ambulance and sideband radio, the villagers’ only means of communication with the outside world. (It took me a while to realise that the numerous small holes in the pillars of the convent’s terrace were actually bullet holes.) Since the departure of the Flemish nuns about 10 years ago, leaving some Congolese sisters, there has been no money available to replace or to maintain the vast convent buildings. The austere guest house where we stayed was slowly imploding, children at the primary school were sitting and writing on the dirt floor, and the hospital was without drugs and had only a few mattresses. The powerful electricity generator we had left behind in 1976 was intact but lacked some essential parts, which together cost only a few hundred pounds. But the money was not there and, in any case, the sisters had no idea how to order the missing parts.
The jungle had invaded the once flourishing coffee plantations, which used to employ a significant part of the population. People now survive on what the fertile land, vegetation and wildlife can offer. In contrast to Kinshasa, there is no obesity in Yambuku and, according to the local doctors and as far as we can see, not much serious malnutrition either, in spite of a monotonous diet based on manioc, fried plantain and bananas, with occasional fish or bush meat. Despite all the difficulties and lack of regular work, however, it is interesting to note how impeccably dressed the children and adults are. When we go for an early morning walk to enjoy some cool air before the steaming heat envelopes the village, we can see women sweeping the courtyards in front of their thatched-roofed mud huts, going to collect water and washing their children. These are among the world’s bottom billion, struggling to survive with what nature has to offer. They have just enough, but no spare capacity for an emergency.… When we arrived in Yambuku on October 20 1976, we went straight to the guest house, which sat between the nuns’ and fathers’ convents. Three European sisters and a priest were standing outside, with a cord between them and us. They had read that in case of an epidemic it was necessary to establish a cordon sanitaire, which they had interpreted literally. A message hung from a tree, saying in the Lingala language that people should stay away as anybody coming any closer would die, and to leave messages on a piece of paper. When the sisters shouted in French, “Don’t come any nearer! Stay outside the barrier or you will die!” I immediately understood from their accent that they were from near my part of Flanders. I jumped over the barrier, saying in Dutch, “We are here to help you and to stop the epidemic. You’ll be all right.” They broke down, holding each other and clinging to my arms, crying. We could see the terror in their faces as they were convinced they too would soon die, just like four of their colleagues and a priest who had all succumbed to the Ebola virus in the course of a few weeks. Once we had all settled down, the sisters prepared a solid dinner of Flemish beef stew and started to tell the story of the epidemic. They explained in great detail how their colleagues had died, who the first victims were at the mission and then in other villages, and that nothing seemed to work as treatment. One sister had kept careful notes on each patient. They decided that we should sleep on the floor in the school classroom as we did not know whether the bedrooms in the convent were contaminated. But I didn’t sleep much that first night in Yambuku, with a thousand questions going through my head and the sounds of the rainforest outside.
It quickly became clear that something was wrong at the hospital. Epidemiological detective work by our team confirmed the suspicions: people were being infected at the hospital through injections made using contaminated needles and syringes (only five syringes and needles were issued to the nurses each morning), and hospital staff and attendees at funerals were falling victim through exposure to body fluids infected with the virus. In addition there seemed to be transmission from mothers to babies. Closing the hospital (which, in any case, had been abandoned by frightened patients) was the decisive action that stopped the Ebola epidemic, and the last victim died on November 5. In simple terms, poor medical practice had killed hundreds of people. The missionaries were undoubtedly doing highly valuable work in education and community development but managing a hospital (without a physician, since they could not find one who would work in such a remote place) was beyond their expertise. On December 16 1976, the quarantine was officially lifted after four long months. The military transport plane that came to pick us up with our precious samples, lab equipment and Land Rover was the first contact with the outside world since we had arrived three months earlier. It was nearly stormed by people who wanted to leave the area.
I had a heated argument with the pilots, who were filling the plane with rattan furniture that belonged to General Bumba, their big boss, and allowing other people who had bribed them on to the plane. There was hardly any space left for us and our goods. Nothing could be taken for granted in Zaïre! I argued and swore and joked, and in the end we all got on the aircraft. I suddenly realised I had become assertive. That was not the end of the story. The Buffalo plane was overloaded, as well as badly loaded, and the pilots took off straight into a formidable tropical storm. We touched the top of some trees and before reaching cruising altitude the plane dived for what felt like a few hundred metres. There were no seat belts and we were hit by heavy flying boxes. Eventually we made it safely to Kinshasa but my legs were trembling when we got out of the plane. For me, flying had been more dangerous than caring for patients or handling virus samples.… Decades later, it is a great joy to see Sukato Mandzomba slowly walking towards me. “How are you?” he asks simply. “How is the family? My wife and I are so happy you came back.” He is smiling shyly and as if we had seen each other just a few days ago. Sukato is one of the few survivors from the 1976 Ebola epidemic. As a 24-year-old nurse, he was infected while caring for dying patients with haemorrhagic fever but never developed the severe, fatal form of the infection which causes massive bleeding and shock. Sukato was among the first people we saw on our arrival in Yambuku in 1976, and after he had recovered from his illness he volunteered to look after patients and helped us with our clinical and epidemiological work.
He now runs the rudimentary hospital laboratory, with a microscope and a hand centrifuge as his only equipment. Typically for Sukato, the laboratory logbook has impeccable records, and he shows me the characteristic bacilli in the sputum smears of numerous tuberculosis patients. The hospital looks the same as I remember it but with far fewer patients, even if there is now a competent doctor. The main reasons for people staying away are the lack of affordable drugs (the government has not sent any for more than two years) and extreme poverty prevents them from paying the various fees that are charged in the absence of any health insurance scheme. Medicines are bought at the weekly market in nearby Yandongi and then sold at a profit to subsidise the hospital. In the tiny hospital pharmacy we see six bicycles, palm oil and a few bags of rice, left as security by patients who could not pay for their drugs. The Yambuku “health zone” covers 14,000 sq km and 260,000 inhabitants but has no ambulance, no means of communication, hardly any medicines and just one fridge for vaccines. The two doctors and the nurses are trying to find solutions without any support from their government or the international community. Many would have given up but they are beacons of professional commitment and dignity amid abject poverty, the state having abdicated all responsibility.
Since that first visit, there have been more than 20 outbreaks of human Ebola haemorrhagic fever, all in Africa, except for a few laboratory-acquired cases. This year, and for the first time, Ebola virus caused a multi-country epidemic in west Africa that originated in Guinea-Conakry. Humans are an accidental host, as a virus that kills its host in a couple of weeks could not survive in nature. It is not clear how the virus reached this part of the continent though its genome has been found in a fruit-eating bat in Gabon. In general, Ebola is a disease of close contact with wildlife, of poverty and particularly of dysfunctional hospitals, which can become deadly centres of viral spread through unsafe injections and lack of basic hygiene. Healthcare workers are usually the first and most affected population. In principle it is very easy to contain an Ebola outbreak: with gloves, hand-washing, safe injection practices, isolation of patients, safe and rapid discarding of the corpses of those killed by Ebola, and tracing of contacts and subsequent observation for a few weeks. In reality, the health infrastructure where Ebola strikes is usually very poor and panic often leads to dissemination of the infection, with people fleeing affected areas, as is the case now in west Africa. As long as health services are inadequate, there will be occasional outbreaks of Ebola in parts of Africa where the virus is hiding in some animal. In theory, there is no need to send in numerous outside experts as control measures are very simple and inexpensive and can be implemented by local professionals and volunteers. However, the reality is that because of their high mortality rate and contagious character, as well as today’s mobility of people across borders, outbreaks due to Ebola and other dangerous viruses must always be considered as a global threat, amply justifying international support and research. The cost of public panic and societal disruption can be enormous, with healthcare workers disproportionately affected – going far beyond the actual impact in terms of deaths due to Ebola.… My last visit to Yambuku had been in 1986, 10 years after the first Ebola epidemic. Along with colleagues from the US Centers for Disease Control, we tested the blood samples we had collected in 1976 for HIV antibodies and found that 0.8 per cent were infected – five years before the first reports on Aids were published in the US. I had gone back to find out what had happened to the individuals who were HIV positive and also to explore whether that other virus in my life had spread further in the region. We found that three had died but also that two men and women had been living with HIV for at least a decade and appeared fairly healthy. The level of HIV infection in the population at large was still 0.8 per cent though it was as high as 11 per cent among prostitutes in the region. Around the same time, HIV prevalence among adults in Kinshasa was as high as 6 per cent (today HIV prevalence in the capital has declined to 3 per cent).
Our research showed not only that people can live for at least 10 years with HIV but also that the virus had existed at low levels for many years in central Africa. Together with later genetic studies of HIV isolates from all over the world, and the discovery that chimpanzees can be infected with a virus very closely related to the human immunodeficiency virus, these findings helped elucidate the origins of HIV.… On our last day in Yambuku, the film crew wants to interview me on the front porch of the convent. It is now barricaded for security reasons but when I was here during the outbreak, this was my favourite place to work and reflect while I watched people strolling by. It is with mixed feelings that I have to leave this beautiful place and people. A dream I wrote about in my memoir has come true: I have come back to Yambuku, to “Ebola ground zero”, a place and experience which changed my life. But I am left with many unanswered questions: how do people live, survive and die here? And what are their aspirations for their children? It is upsetting to see the deterioration in living conditions and infrastructure, reducing people to their most basic condition humaine.
As I sit next to Father Carlos on the return trip to Bumba, I ask what drives him. He says his real religion is fighting poverty and injustice. Then suddenly he turns to me and says: “You challenged me in 1976: why did I not do more for the daily life of the people of Bumba, besides all the religious activities? That is when I decided to start a hospital. You really turned around my life.” It is stunning that I had had any influence on a priest but it is also a profoundly happy moment. Two days later, back in Kinshasa, we take our first real shower in a week before going to a concert by superstar Papa Wemba, together with more than 20 former colleagues with whom I had worked on Aids in the 1980s and 1990s in Projet Sida. As always, I find the rumba and soukous liberating. The vitality expressed in Congolese music reflects the creativity and love for life of the Congolese people. They deserve better than their daily struggle for survival. New viruses will unavoidably continue to emerge, particularly where people and animals live in proximity but war, greed and corrupt governance are man-made disasters, and they can be prevented. Peter Piot is a microbiologist and physician, and director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. His book, ‘No Time to Lose: A Life in Pursuit of Deadly Viruses’, is published by Norton. To comment on this article please post below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m Dr Louisa Baxter and I’ve just come back from Sierra Leone where the Ebola epidemic is fast spiralling out of control.The virus is killing up to 70% of those who catch it and the numbers of people infected is doubling every 20 days.Children and families there, and across West Africa, desperately need the international community to do more to defeat Ebola. And they need them to do it fast.
Next month, leaders of the 20 most powerful and richest countries meet at the G20 Summit in Australia.
It’s critical they agree to make enough money, equipment and people available to stop this killer virus.
Your voice will be joining with thousands of others across the globe as people from Sydney to San Francisco, unite to demand action.
This is the largest Ebola outbreak we’ve ever seen and there is only a matter of weeks to contain it.
We must stop Ebola. With your help we can.
Listen here to The Scrap of Lace — a murder mystery radio play read by Radio Free Brighton volunteers and work experience students from Downlands School.
A lecture and panel discussing the environment, hosted by Nina Emmet founder of FotoDocument and Pooran Desai, founder of Bioregional and One Planet Living. This lecture looks at some excellent photographic collections put together by the panel, centering on key environmental themes such as water usage, waste and recycling.
Held at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Brighton, three of the ten commissioned photographers, Thomas Ball, Sophie Gerrard and Murray Ballard, took part in the discussion about their One Planet City photo essays now installed in public spaces around Brighton & Hove. . The project was launched under the Brighton Photo Biennial 2014 — core arts partner for the project Photoworks.
Howard Johns is the founder of Southern Solar Ltd, and has been installing solar hot water systems and other small scale renewable energy systems for over ten years. During this Power To The People speech, he talks about renewable energy, specifically Solar Power.