About six weeks ago CIDRAP Director Michael Osterholm penned an article that appeared in Politico Magazine called The Ebola Epidemic Is About to Get Worse. Much Worse which drew attention to the seasonal migration of West African workers away from their family farms after the fall harvests, to jobs in neighboring countries.
This year, the concern is that some of these workers may leave the Ebola stricken regions of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea and carry the virus with them as they cross into Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Niger.
Nov 14, 2014
Frank van den Bergh / iStock
In much of West Africa, the annual harvest ends around October, and in the following months, countless young men hit the road to look for work elsewhere, such as on cocoa and coffee plantations in Ivory Coast or in fishing ports on the coast, according to people who know the region.
That post-harvest migration is a prime example of the high mobility of the region's population. National borders are porous and don't mean a whole lot, and people cross them freely, by all accounts. And that fact worries some observers who are pondering the challenge of stopping the Ebola epidemic simmering in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
With a high level of travel between the three hard-hit countries and their neighbors, these observers reason, there's a very good chance that travelers or migrants will bring more Ebola cases into other countries, such as Senegal, Mali, and Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), potentially triggering expansion of the epidemic.