The Democratic Republic of Congo's daily hell of poverty, assorted wars, ethnic antagonism, frail government institutions, porous borders, cultural superstitions, meddling neighbors and corrupt elites provide a one-stop-shop example of the wicked conditions afflicting the globe's less-developed regions, sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
Unfortunately for all homo sapiens living within 200 kilometers or so of a major airport anywhere on this planet, the Ebola virus epidemic afflicting eastern Congo constitutes a deadly, international, mass-casualty threat to human life.
And there are political predators who would like to see this plague seed global fear and death.
Before I address that point, note that all of the grave political, cultural and economic ills I mentioned in this column's first sentence are means of magnifying the Ebola epidemic's regional and global threat.
You may not know this. But the predators know this. The difference (I hope) between you and the predators is that they are megalomaniacs and you are not.
Let me reinforce this point with a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) analogy. Whether the sane among us are trying to contain nuclear and chemical weapons proliferation or a deadly disease with a high fatality rate, war frustrates the best attempts to contain the mega killers.
I'll stipulate that nuclear weapons kill en masse those near ground zero, while disease is less point-specific, even diseases that are potential biological weapons of mass destruction.
The sad fact of human death is we all die one by one, whatever the cause. Despite Hiroshima, viral and biotic contagions are by far history's worst mass killers of human beings. The Black Death killed 1 in 3 Europeans. There's some debate on the exact figure but not on the bottom-line effect.
Now futurist critics pay attention. Mass extinction by asteroid impact could supplant plagues, but our brains are in the process of creating planetary defenses to destroy space-rock killers. Ironically, possible defenses include missiles destroying killer asteroids with nuclear weapons.
The sci-fi perspective is speculative. The Ebola plague in Congo's North Kivu and Ituri provinces is now and in our face.
In August 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the eastern Congo outbreak an epidemic. As of May 12, WHO reports 1,705 Ebola cases, 1,617 confirmed and 88 probable. There are 1,124 confirmed deaths and 456 survivors. (WHO's media office sent me those statistics May 14.)
Now for more context, historical and operational: The eastern Congo Ebola epidemic is history's second deadliest. In casualty terms, the 2013-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak surpasses the current eastern Congo epidemic. West Africa was a slaughterhouse. There were 28,000 cases reported, and at least 11,300 people died.
But West Africa's outbreak didn't confront terrorists with a global mass murder agenda who think Ebola is a weapon of mass destruction their terror attacks can unleash.
Enter the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist-jihadi outfit that murders throughout eastern Congo.
According to a StrategyPage.com, on Feb. 24, gunmen attacked an Ebola clinic in the North Kivu city of Butembo. "The men hurled rocks then burned clinic supplies and water and sanitation equipment," it said. On Feb. 27, attackers struck a Butembo clinic with several infected patients, "and a gunfight ensued. Some infected patients ran away in order to escape the gun battle."
The jihadi ADF was likely responsible for the attacks.
Medical aid agencies in eastern Congo contend local police and the Congolese Army are not capable of defending the clinics and medical personnel.
ADF jihadis must be pleased with that perception.
But good guys get a say. Though the epidemic has not abated, the Congolese government and WHO epidemic containment efforts have been generally successful.
The UN says it need additional resources (to include medical personnel) to contain the virus and keep it from spreading to neighboring countries.
To promote that good end, UN peacekeepers in Congo need to eliminate several hundred ADF jihadis — for the good of your health and humankind.
To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com. His latest book, "Cocktails from Hell: Five Wars Shaping the 21st Century" (Bombardier Books), is available now.
Photo credit: geralt at Pixabay