Perhaps the world has just whizzed right by me and I’m stuck in the last decade that had no shortage of energy challenges for the United States. But I was taken aback by a video of a House Foreign Affairs hearing on the African continent’s energy needs. It seems rather strange that the politicians are so worried about other places around the world when we haven’t necessarily been able to solve our own every problems here at home.

Somewhat related is an item of interest on my radar, the issue of the Ebola epidemic. My interest was piqued when the first case of a person from Liberia becoming ill with Ebola in the US was reported in Texas last month. Reuters had an in-depth story of the man and the village from where he came, including photographs and video. The village’s denizens live in what looks to be stucco shacks connected together by dirt roads. It did not appear to me that these little shacks have the amenities of running water or electricity, and there was no indication of a means of sanitation which is likely a major contributing factor to the spread of Ebola that is contracted via direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. Without these things, these places are epidemiological ticking time bombs.

It is because of this situation that I have entirely mixed feelings regarding whatever American politicians might do to aid in the fight against the Ebola epidemic in Western Africa. Trying to aid development of Africa is certainly nothing new. It’s been a topic of conversation on and off for decades. But I am not convinced we’ve ever done the right things, with exhibit A being this House panel discussing energy needs for a continent so poor there is a general lack of power grids, running water and public sanitation. It appears to me that as we waste billions doing these rather incoherent things, we ignore their real needs. Then they have a problem with disease and we spend billions to address the epidemics individually rather than helping them prevent disease in a general sense. An ounce of prevention is certainly worth more than a pound of cure.

I don’t have a problem with devoting some resources to aid in the fight against Ebola, but I certainly think that the government should rethink economic policy toward Africa in a more preventive sense. It would save far more lives than waiting until they get sick with communicable diseases that they can possibly spread the world over just because they can’t wash their hands at home.

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