It has become essential to acknowledge the socio-political-ideological forces that have generated local crises such as in Liberia  and Sierra Leone, the linkages of these crises to the ‘global organic crisis,’ and for serious attempts to be made to address these more comprehensively through changes in attitudes and responses to the health of whole populations at this critical time in human history . The barrier to meaningful change lies in failing to admit that our predicament is at least in part attributable to privileged populations wastefully consuming highly disproportionate levels of energy, to their having inordinate expectations of what life owes them and to imagining that ‘business as usual’ with minor modifications is all that is required [8,10]. Such attitudes are damaging to all and neglectful of potential solutions within our grasp [11,12].
The deliberate structuring of the global economy for the preferential benefit of a small proportion of people reflects inadequate regard for the impact of entrenched poverty on the neglected majority . The ongoing extraction of material and human resources from poor countries through interest on debt that can never be repaid, exploitation of land and mineral resources impoverish already poor countries and add severe ecological damage [9,14]. The resulting severely adverse living conditions of many, that foster poor health and allow for only rudimentary health and social services, have been conducive to continuing cross-species transmission of infections like HIV, SARS, Avian ‘flu and Ebola and the persistence and spread of tuberculosis and malaria [2-4]. All of these diseases and the emergence of drug resistance cannot be controlled through biomedical means alone. From a historical perspective, the profoundly disruptive relationships between Africa and the world are additional relevant upstream causal factors, [2,15] and if the Ebola epidemic cannot be contained, its impact, like that of HIV/AIDS, will have a devastating effect on sub-Saharan Africa.
While we seemingly value freedom, human rights, progress based on reason, human dignity, democracy, competitiveness in free markets and economic growth, selective strategies and power relations have distorted the application of these concepts [16-18]. Notable contributions to these distortions and our unstable predicament include an almost unwavering belief in flawed economic dogma (until very recently), an extravagant sense of entitlement to endless consumption and acceptance of the ‘justice of deserved privilege.’
Widespread belief that ongoing biomedical advances will provide all the solutions reflects denial of the magnitude of these global crises, their multifactorial causality, and the covert complicity of the most privileged and powerful in the complex causal chain . Indeed such belief can be seen to be unwarranted by the fact that the benefits of progress and economic growth have largely impacted on the lives of only one third of the world’s population and are not achievable or sustainable for a majority in the context of population growth, wasteful use of limited natural resources and climate change [8,20]. Such features of the global economic landscape are also apparent in many local environments [2,21].
The beneficence of development aid, which is necessary but insufficient, does not adequately reach the intended sources or contribute to ‘development’ when so much is deflected towards urgent humanitarian issues . High profile praise for helpful philanthropy also obscures the facts that extraction of resources from the ‘global south’, including massive repayments on debt that can never be eradicated, results in the net global financial flows from the ‘global south’ to the ‘global north’ far exceeding donor aid . Ineffective local and global governance are also deeply implicated in sustaining poverty, together with overt and covert forms of corruption and exploitation, and other disruptive forces .
It is also notable that most publications on international and global health challenges come from those in the ‘global north,’ whose proposed solutions relegate to a lower priority the perspectives from the ‘global south’ .