This is a guest post by Dehunge Shiaka, researcher and gender expert in Freetown Sierra Leone
What are the emotional and psycho-social impacts of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa? With much of the media attention on the medical, international, and civil-military response to Ebola, this is a question that has largely been unaddressed. Yet it is inevitable that a virus that ravaged communities, halted economies, and killed thousands in a region would have multiple and lasting emotional impacts. Taking account of people’s extreme social and emotional reactions in emergency settings is vital to understanding the long-term impacts of Ebola. Moreover, a focused picture on emotion is necessary in trying to grasp the nature of the crisis and why resources should be dedicated not just to ‘eradicating’ the virus, but also to supporting communities struggling in a ‘post-Ebola’ era. This post provides a few examples of the emotional impact of Ebola and raises several questions about crisis, emotion, and the varying meanings of ‘impact,’ ‘virus free,’ and ‘security’ in relation to medical crises.
The first story takes place in Freetown, the capital, during the peak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in November 2014. It involved a one-week old baby who was found by the side of her dead mother. As part of the protocol at the time, the infant was driven in an ambulance to one of the holding centres for testing, but the baby was not immediately allowed in. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Dehunge Shiaka, a gender expert in Sierra Leone. This is post #3 of a series he has written on the impacts of Ebola in Sierra Leone (post 1, post 2).
How can we ensure that when Ebola ends, Sierra Leone’s medical infrastructure and economy doesn’t disintegrate with it? Yesterday Oxfam called for an Ebola Marshall Plan to help countries like Sierra Leone, which have been seriously impacted by the deadly virus. This would involve economic interventions in health, education, and sanitation- amongst other areas. But given the slow and late response to the Ebola crisis- is this realistic? Continue reading
Nathan Paxton has a provocative post on The Monkey Cage where he suggests, among other things that the World Health Organization (WHO) is not to blame for the Ebola crisis. Rather, he lays the blame squarely on donor countries.
He rightly notes that the WHO’s budget and staff was cut after the financial crisis, but I think he lets WHO off too lightly. With many ideas circulating about the future of the WHO in advance of the upcoming WHO Executive Board meeting beginning January 26th, understanding the various factors that contributed to the failed response to Ebola is all the more critical. Continue reading
The Ebola crisis isn’t over. In the absence of new infections in the United States, Americans have moved on to other preoccupations (Ferguson anyone?), but the problem hasn’t gone away even if Google searches have plunged. There has been some positive news out of Liberia with a decline in the rate of new infections from 80 new cases per day to about 20 to 30, but the news from Sierra Leone suggests the problem is far from under control, with the end of the rainy season potentially making transit easier and facilitating the spread of the virus further. More troubling still is the new hot spot of infections coming out of Mali, eight confirmed cases in all, 7 of them related to a single Guinean imam who died in diagnosed in Mali and whose body was not handled properly as one would a deceased Ebola patient. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Dehunge Shiaka, Researcher and gender expert in Freetown Sierra Leone
This is the second post in a series by Shiaka, which is meant to provide an insider’s perspective on living in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis. The first one can be accessed here. To access our linkages posts on Ebola click here or here.
Hassan is a 35-year old youth volunteer working with the Sierra Leone Red Cross. In the thick of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in Kenema, he led one of the burial teams in that town. Each day he as he came home to meet his family after work, Hassan went straight to the back of the house to change his clothes and shoe before using the bathroom. He also ensured a period of ‘social distancing’ among his own family members and between his family and neighbors, as is now the recommended norm within the Kenema township. That was some three months ago. Today, the infection rates in the districts of Kenema and Kailahun (where the first case was reported) seem to be dropping. In general, the trend shows that the rate of infection in those two districts as well as in the districts of Bonthe, Koinadugu, Kambia, Moyamba, Pujehun, Kono, Tonkolili and Bo are no longer spiraling.
While the international community fumbled at international conferences and deliberated as to how best to rescue Sierra Leoneans, we here in Sierra Leone have been developing innovative- and effective- mechanisms of survival. Now, as the international community finally wakes up to the magnitude of Ebola and begins arriving in greater numbers, they should pay attention, and plug into these community networks and structures. Doing so could provide the game changer for containing the spread of the disease in the country. According to Hassan, community mobilization has been a key element in slowing the destructive spread of EVD. In particular, youth groups have worked not only to spread awareness about the virus, but also to act as monitors, contact tracers and enforcers of bylaws throughout communities. These small-scale efforts have had big pay offs when it comes to reducing infection rates and saving lives. Continue reading
This is a guest post by Dehunge Shiaka, Researcher and gender expert in Freetown Sierra Leone
There has been increased international attention to the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) and its spread in West Africa. However, for those living in the region, the reports, meetings, and fears associated with the virus seem to have come too late. The international community should send aid, supplies, and experts, but it should also listen to the experiences, advice, and wisdom of locals. Those living amidst the epidemic have a first-hand view of why the disease has spreading so quickly, and how it can be managed and contained. This post contains my own view about the current Ebola outbreak. Overall, the disease has slowed down much of our activities and movement and this is bound to spread hardship among the population, most of whom are poor already. Here, I focus on what I see as the number one reason as to why the outbreak has been difficult to contain, as well as a host of practical (and easy) mechanisms for halting the virus.
To start, it is useful to know that EVD first attacked some residents of Kailahun District in May this year. This is the same district where the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone began in the early 1990s, along the border with Liberia. Today, the disease is present in 13 out of the 14 districts in the country (only Koinadugu District has yet to record any infected case). While the first hit districts of Kailahun and Kenema (the district I hail from) are recording diminishing infection rates, rather unfortunately, the districts of Bombali, Port Loko and the Western Area (where the capital, Freetown, is located) have increasing infection rates. This is because our health system appears to be buckling.
One of the greatest contributors to the spread of the virus has been misinformation and miseducation about the virus. Continue reading
Well, this has been a very difficult period to watch as we see the unfolding tragedy of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. We have seen dire warnings for the region, with a dramatic uptick in reported infections and some heartbreaking (and problematic) images from hospitals. There have been credible projections that left unchecked Ebola could have as many 1.4 million infections by early 2015 in Liberia and Sierra Leone, which would amount to more than 10% of the population of those two countries. With President Obama’s announcement of $500 million (perhaps up to $1 billion) and the deployment of 3000 soldiers, help may be arriving and more on the way, but it is unclear if this belated scale-up of attention and resources will arrive to stave off the worst in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Fortunately, the spread in neighboring Nigeria seems very well-contained.
We have also seen the first diagnosed Ebola patient outside the continent, in my own state of Texas, by a Liberian who travelled here and became symptomatic upon arrival. The situation appears to be under control but questions remain, as the patient was initially sent home after his first visit to the hospital. Here are some news and comments from around the web. I had some exchanges with WSJ and NYT reporters about airport fever monitoring as well as the ethics of the images the NYT had of suffering children on their pages. Read on for more. Continue reading
Welcome to the second edition of “Tweets of the Week.” It was a busy seven days for news and my twitter feed provided much useful information — in micro-form.
The Scottish independence referendum featured especially prominently in my feed. This was perhaps my favorite tweet about the final result:
Prior to the vote, my feed was filled with some great tweets about the #indyref. Here are a few of the shorter ones that I found especially helpful:
The Scottish referendum, of course, was not the only interesting issue in global politics this week. And, over the long haul, it almost assuredly wasn’t the most important either.
For example, the continuing spread of Ebola might be the biggest near-term threat to international security — depending upon how we define “security.”
No matter how depressed you might be about the prospect of new war in the Middle East, this tweet helps provide context:
But read this too, on ISIS/ISIL:
It also seems appropriate to be worried about Ukraine:
Finally, here’s a blast from the past that might be quite helpful in a class that is discussing renewed war in Iraq:
Though I’ve been blogging at the Duck of Minerva for more than 9 years, I haven’t posted much content for several years. My last post here was in mid-February. You can find maybe half a dozen posts in 2013 and 2014. It’s a terrible record. Embarrassingly, I had to look up my username just to log in.
There are multiple explanations for my silence: the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, which was my original blogging muse. I became department chair. My hair is turning very gray. Blah, blah, blah.
However, in my own defense, I should note that I am a much more frequent contributor to the Tweets sidebar here at the Duck. In fact, I can only conclude that I’m now a “microblogger,” at least primarily. Is that worthwhile?
With that question in mind, I’m going to try to post a regular “Tweets of the week” piece. This will mostly be retweets from my Twitter feed, though I may slip in one or two of my own original tweets. I’ll try to highlight major issues of the week.
Re: Upcoming Scottish Independence Vote (which captured my attention while traveling there in August)
Re: ISIS (this is a parking ticket issued by ISIL):
Re: AU department chair: