October 07, 2014

In early September, the flames of fear consumed many Bahamians as social media erupted with reports of an Ebola infected visitor to the Bahamas. In the last month alone, the deadly viral outbreak – classified as the most severe in the world’s history – has ravaged parts of West Africa claiming the lives of thousands of men women and children. Concern surrounding the spread of the disease has become so widespread that officials at the World Health Organization have declared the situation a public health emergency of international concern; and international it has become.

Just this week, the United States reported its very first cases of the disease. So far, US officials say they have been able to quarantine and isolate those affected and have dismissed the idea of a potential US outbreak. The spread of the disease to our closest neighbor and ally however, should be cause for great concern for the leadership of this country. There is a popular saying that states: “If the United States sneezes, the Bahamas will catch a cold”. While meant in jest, this adage could not be truer. Our proximity to the US and our close relationship with the country while beneficial could also prove harmful in this regard. 


According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, the recent Ebola outbreak has killed more than three thousand people in just over one month. Based on available figures from the last population census in the Bahamas, the figure represents 58% of the population in Exuma as recorded in 2010. It surpasses the number of persons living on Long Island according figures recorded in 2008 and is higher than the combined populations of Inagua, Ragged Island and Mayaguana.

The threat of this lethal disease at our back door has raised a number of serious concerns ranging from the strength of our immigration controls and border protection systems, to the preparedness of our healthcare systems to manage a potential outbreak. 

It is no secret that our healthcare system over the years has seen its fair share of challenges including overcrowding, personnel shortages, a lack of equipment and according to recent media reports, slack and ineffective controls which have reportedly led to the disappearance of millions of dollars in medication. Coupled with current health and safety concerns which spring from the existence of the scores of shanty towns here in New Providence alone; our capital city transforms from peaceful paradise, into a powder keg waiting to be lit. Add to that the Bahamas’ reputation as a leading international transshipment hub and the danger increases. 

In the weeks following the reported Ebola scare though, Bahamians have yet to see any deliberate action taken by this government to mitigate these very serious circumstances. Outside of brief, off the cuff statements from the Minister of Tourism regarding the government’s overall concern about the disease, we have yet to see the Ministry of Health launch an awareness campaign. As a people, we have yet to be informed of what additional controls are being employed by the government to protect this country. In a global society where goods and people are able to travel more freely than ever before, the risks of migration could spell disastrous consequences if not properly monitored and managed and unfortunately this Christie administration is failing in that regard.

The country’s Ebola scare, though proven a false alarm should not make us complacent. The rapid spread of the Ebola Virus from remote parts of Africa to the United States is proof, that NO COUNTRY, least of all ours is absolutely safe. As a small nation with relatively open national borders and a dependency on tourist dollars from the United States, heightened safety protocols MUST be enacted to ensure the safety of Bahamian citizens and visitors.

Branville McCartney

DNA Leader

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Democratic National Alliance - Bahamas

The mission of The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is to ensure that the needs and aspirations of Bahamian people - to be owners with the government in the political, cultural, and economic development of the nation - are met. The DNA is devoted to upholding, protecting, and deepening the democratic rule of law in society by promoting openness and accountability in governmental affairs, social justice and equality, and the right of the people to self-governance and authority in determining their own destiny.