Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Japanese Company Limits Outbreak of Ebola Among Workers on its Liberian Rubber Farm

The lead editorial on today's Wall Street Journal's editorial page titled The Ebola Twilight of Public Institutions is a scathing critique of modern big government.

The focus of the editorial and a related piece by Daniel Henninger (A Year of Living on the Brink) on a nearby page was the failure of modern big government to live up to its basic responsibility to protect its citizens. The thrust of both articles was that big government has become more focused on expanding and promoting itself than on its citizens. 

The mishandling of the growing Ebola epidemic by both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) were cited as specific current examples of this failure of big gvernment.

Start of the Ebola Epidemic  

In December 2013 cases of people infected with the Ebola virus began occurring in the West African nation of Guinea.  The disease soon spread neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone and soon reached epidemic proportions in Liberia.

As early as March 2014 both the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were reporting about 9,000 cases of the disease in Africa, especially Liberia.

One Large Company Takes Action to Protect its Workers
While WHO and the CDC began issuing reassuring press releases, one private company, Firestone Liberia, had a worker on its large rubber farm come down with the disease in March of 2014.

The company, which is owned by Japan's Bridgestone Group, immediately sprung into action to both contain the outbreak in its area as well as treat those with the disease, most of whom were current or retired employees and their families.  

When the first Ebola victim appeared at the company's clinic the management team on site sprang into action.  Turning to their computers they quickly learned all they could about Ebola from Internet searches.  

Two shipping containers were converted to isolation centers for victims.  Teachers at the company's school visited student's homes to educate families on how to protect themselves from the disease as well as how to detect it and seek treatment immediately.   Janitors were trained on how to bury victims of the disease while company surveyors mapped the locations of outbreaks which enabled managers to isolate and halt the spread of the disease.

The rubber farm owned by Firestone Liberia covers some 185 square miles of land.  It employs 8,500 Liberian workers.  In addition to the workers the area also contains their families who comprise an additional 71,500 people.  These plus some others not associated with the company comprise a large population scattered over a sizable area. 

To date 71 people in this community have contracted the disease, a small number compared to the number of victims in neighboring areas where the disease is running unchecked.  More encouraging is the fact that as of last month there have been no new cases of the disease in the Firestone community.

Following the success of its subsidiary in combating the disease, the Bridgestone Group itself recently announced the donation of one million dollars to help fight the spread of the disease in West Africa.

The actions by Bridgstone and its employees shows that the private sector is better at handling problems like Ebola than are sprawling government bureaucracies.

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