CategoryEbola

Elective Affinities: Fragility and Injustice in the Field, by Luisa Enria

2017

They say they can’t tell if I have malaria or not, maybe it’s something else. “Just lie down, try the drip, and see if it helps”. I am in the hospital in the North of Sierra Leone, I have a headache of a magnitude I have never experienced before, I have a high fever and joint pains, the fans are not working and to get through a huge number of patients in the overcrowded district hospitals the nurses are injecting strong antibiotics straight into the veins in my hand. In the evening the pain is slightly subsiding thanks to the drugs, as they bring in Kadiatu. She is about 14, she is incredibly thin but is brought in kicking and screaming and it takes three adults to keep her down on the bed and to stop her from ripping out the IVs once they are put in. Her family don’t speak English so I translate between them and the foreign doctor: “They say they haven’t used any traditional medicine on her”. Her screams are making me shiver, “I don’t think I can do this, I don’t think I can do this” I keep repeating to myself. By the next morning Kadiatu has died—my own illness worsens and I am transferred to the capital where I get better treatment.

2012

I am doing my PhD research with unemployed youth in Freetown, studying violence in the aftermath of war. I hang out in “ghettos”, I sit endlessly as young men drink, smoke, listen to music, and we talk about “the system”. It’s intense, but rewarding work, I’m learning every day, I think it’s what I have been trained to do, the full immersion experience. Then, one day the violence I am researching comes very close, too close, it rips my world apart. Continue reading

Ebola: why has the previous existence of Ebola in the Mano river region not been discussed?

 

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Empty Ebola Treatment Center at ELWA outside Monrovia. November 1, 2016

Passage from a medical journal from 1982: The results seem to indicate that at least Liberia and Guinea have been included in the Ebola and Marburg virus endemic zone. Therefore, the medical personnel in Liberian health centres should be aware of the possibility that they may come across active cases and thus be prepared to avoid nosocomial epidemics.

Signs here and there in the city remind us of the recent Ebola crisis. An empty bucket outside a shop, hand sanitizer in the fancier restaurants, but not much more. Monrovians do not mention it much, unless you ask. It is not like the previous civil wars which people still like to refer to. If Ebola in Liberia was like a silent war, it also appears to have a silent aftermath. Riding a shared taxi I ask my co-passengers about this. Why do you keep talking about the war, that took place so long ago but not the Ebola crisis? A woman answers: the Ebola epidemic was simply too fearful. In the war you would know where the enemy came from, Ebola on the other hand came from nowhere and everywhere; it was an invisible enemy. Which one would they prefer? The war, is the unison answer amongst fellow passengers. And when I did not stress it anymore we quickly moved into other less ‘fearful’ topics. Continue reading

Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic by Paul Richards. Book Review by Jamie Hitchen

Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic is one of the first books to provide an in-depth analysis of the recent pandemic in West Africa, The author Paul Richards has done an excellent job in bringing to the fore community efforts in responding to the virus. Continue reading

Closed fists of Ebola, by Diana Szántó

The arrival is always a shock. When the door of the aeroplane opens, there is a sudden rush of heat, of odours and colours. It does not take too long to get used to it. When I am outside of the airport, it is as if I had never been gone. The last time I was here was before the Ebola. I remember, one of my friends called me one week after my return, speaking of an Ebola case in Kailahun. Since then the country had had more than 12 000 cases and have counted more than 3000 deaths. These are the official numbers, although I have always found these statistics strange, knowing that Ebola kills with a 50% probability, as health experts affirm. The numbers suggest that or too many people got identified who finally were not sick, or Salone has a secret method of treating Ebola with a better success rate than all the others. Also, the epidemics drew a special curb here compared to the two other countries affected. While in the beginning Liberia seemed to be the most vulnerable of the three, Sierra Leone soon caught up and experienced a sharp increase of cases in the middle of the year, when elsewhere the disease seemed already to be withdrawing. It would be interesting to find out what factors shaped the statistical curbs in the three countries in this particular way and what accounts for the difference in the development and the soothing of the epidemics. Today Sierra Leone is Ebola-free, and the whole country is counting down to the 7th of November when the 2 times 21 days with no new case will be reached – as everybody hopes. Now new cases are reported only from neighbouring Guinea and people pray that the virus does not cross the border. Continue reading

“You think this is an Ebola Office?” Rebuilding trust in the aftermath of Sierra Leone’s outbreak, by Luisa Enria

We are sitting amongst the rubble of an unfinished building, a group of young men have stopped their construction work for a moment to take respite from the hot midday sun. A black jeep speeds past with its windows rolled down and one of the young workers shouts: “You think this is an Ebola office?” As the car continues on its way, the young men laugh and discuss how “those people”, meaning Ebola response workers, don’t want Ebola to end. The assumption is that response workers have “eaten” a lot of Ebola money, embodied by the large number of cars that have suddenly appeared in Kambia, Northern Sierra Leone, a town near the border to Guinea previously neglected by international development efforts. Kambia was the last hotspot of Ebola in the summer of 2015, and one of the target areas of a heavily militarised “Operation Northern Push”, which imposed a curfew between 6pm and 6am alongside strict restrictions on gatherings and movement. In late July the district discharged its last patients and released its last quarantined homes, beginning the 42-day count-down to becoming Ebola-free. As fate would have it, on the 41st day, a new case was recorded in one of Kambia’s chiefdoms, an old woman, rumoured to have caught it from her lover, an Ebola survivor. As soon as the news of the new rumour began spreading, discontent and plans to resist were palpable around town: “We will not accept it this time”. Motorbike riders were said to be planning a protest to reject that this was a real Ebola case, while others recounted having seen workers at the Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) cheering as they received the news that Ebola was back in Kambia, and that they would therefore continue to be employed. In the end, the protest did not take place and the whole of the victim’s village, comprising over 900 people, was placed in quarantine without resistance. These episodes and the stories that they engender are, however, indicative of the prevailing sentiments amongst citizens at the tail-end of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Continue reading

Stereotyping Africa: an appeal for a normal people perspective, by Robert J. Pijpers

The recent Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea has spurred a range of responses from all over the world. Some of these responses exemplify the ongoing stereotyping of Africa and Africans. Public discourse, unfortunately, still has the tendency of addressing Africa as a country, a war ridden space full of sadness and its inhabitants as savage and helpless. But stereotypes are not limited to these images of misery.

Other stereotypes romanticize Africa and Africans, they convey an image of the exotic and unspoiled continent. Moreover, various perspectives convey an image of poor people as a noble poor. These images may be highlighted in the context of Ebola, but they are always present. They are part of many people`s understanding of Africa, part of ignorant perspectives on the continent and the people. Continue reading

Fighting the War with the Ebola Drone, by Kristin B. Sandvik

A particularly interesting and puzzling corner of the War on Ebola imaginary is inhabited by the triad consisting of Ebola, humanitarian governance, and unmanned technology, drones more precisely. Out of this triad has emerged what will here be called ´the Ebola Drone`. The Ebola Drone has materialized from a confluence of ideas about the relationship between diseases and (inter)national security; the means and ends of effective aid delivery; and the potentiality of drones to «be good». Continue reading

Ebola: the ripple effect, by Brian James

The 117 emergency call is placed to the Ebola response unit. Within the hour, a medical convoy descends on the community from which the call came, complete with a military escort. Normally, few would have expressed any concern or interest at rumours of Mammy Marah’s fever spike but these are not normal times. The outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has left many on edge and highly suspicious of the manifestation of any physical symptoms in neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances. The intimidating presence of the Ebola response unit has been cited as one of the myriad reasons for the rising body count accrued by the disease, as the sight of armed men triggers the instinct of family members to “protect” their Ebola infected relatives. Other explanations go that the Ebola response unit’s armed escort is for their protection, as initial reactions to their presence often turned violent. This resistance to Ebola health workers has been as much an obstacle to the fight against the disease as false alarms raised by the overzealous or mean spirited.
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The “War” on Ebola, by Gudrun Sif Fridriksdottir

In the limited attention the international media has paid to Liberian, Sierra Leonean and Guinean people’s experiences and thoughts on Ebola an interesting metaphor has frequently come up – that of comparing Ebola to war.

“The Ebola outbreak has been like someone firing live bullets” – Emmett P Chea, Liberia (http://www.bbc.com/news/29331061). “Just imagine living somewhere where you are being invisibly terrorized” – Lucy Sherman, Liberian in the US (http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/hillsborough-regional-news/ebola-worries-from-home-follow-ut-student)

This has been in the context of either comparing the virus to war generally, as above, or comparing it specifically to the civil wars that Liberians and Sierra Leoneans have endured. Continue reading

A brief summary of my Ebola information dissemination activities, by Boima Tucker

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