News / Africa

Ebola Brings Sickness, Fear, Anger

A man, right, working for a humanitarian group, throws water in a small bag to West Point residents behind the fence of a holding area, as they wait for a second consignment of food from the Liberian Government to be handed out, at the West Point area, near the central city area of Monrovia, Liberia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Two new cases of Ebola have emerged in Nigeria and, in an alarming development, they are outside the group of caregivers who treated an airline passenger who arrived with Ebola and died, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Friday.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
A man, right, working for a humanitarian group, throws water in a small bag to West Point residents behind the fence of a holding area, as they wait for a second consignment of food from the Liberian Government to be handed out, at the West Point area, near the central city area of Monrovia, Liberia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Two new cases of Ebola have emerged in Nigeria and, in an alarming development, they are outside the group of caregivers who treated an airline passenger who arrived with Ebola and died, Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Friday.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on Ebola and social healing

Joe DeCapua

A Cornell University professor says when responding to the West Africa Ebola epidemic, officials must consider both the physical and social dimensions of healing. Stacey Langwick said the outbreak has dramatically changed the way people care for the sick.

Listen to De Capua report on Ebola and social healing
Listen to De Capua report on Ebola and social healingi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Langwick is studying the Ebola crisis through the eyes of a medical anthropologist – someone, she said, is most interested in “behavior at the intersection of culture, humanity and biology.”

“We’re very interested in how people think about their bodies. How they’re thinking about diseases. How they’re thinking about threats and what sorts of action or responses come from those conceptions about diseases and threats,” she said.

The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is a medical emergency. But Langwick said there’s more than one dimension to it.

“When we focus only on the very important scientific questions and biological questions of the origins of this disease -- its population dynamics, its spread – we may come up with a set of interventions that look very effective on paper in relation to containing the virus, but they’re completely ineffective on the ground.”

Past Ebola outbreaks in Africa were often over in a matter of weeks and occurred in small areas. Infected people were quickly isolated and the outbreak ended when the dying stopped. But this outbreak crossed porous borders – has been going on for months -- and the dying and new infections continue.

Langwick said, “Part of what we’re seeing is our intense inter-connectedness in today’s world. People travel. People need to travel to make their livelihoods, to get food, to see relatives, to care for each other, for their jobs and their profession. And I think we’re seeing a very effective and devastating virus take advantage of the fact that we are a very inter-connected world.”

The Cornell professor said when people live in an area with poor health care, surrounded by death and the fear of death, it is an infuriating and terrifying situation. That’s made worse, she said, when areas are placed under quarantine -- like the West Pointe area of Liberia’s capital Monrovia – with little or no warning or education campaigns about Ebola.

“The current violence in Monrovia really shows us that if we do not do that what will then be required is force and violence in a situation -- where there’s already so much loss, heartache and death – that adding to it is not what anyone is hoping will happen.”

She said that it’s a question of how do we care for the people we love, especially in the face of danger. She described it as the ethics of living, the ethics of caring.

Even the way people mourn the death of their loved ones has changed in the affected countries. No longer, said health officials, can people touch dead bodies during funerals.

The professor said, “How can we actually make a meaningful grieving practice together? And parts of that grieving practice might have to be new. And traditions are very strong and so they’re not easy to break. But part of what can be a real drawback of highly focused public health interventions is they tell people what not to do, but they do not take the time to imagine with people what they can do. “

Effective interventions, Langwick said,  are more easily accepted when their based on consultations with a broad range of community members.

She added that working with traditional healers may help, as long as those healers are fully aware of the risks of Ebola.

“Good healers are skillful in conceiving and promoting therapies that intervene in the dynamics of both biological diseases and human relationships,” she said.

More than 1,300 people have died on ebola in West Africa.

  • A man working for a humanitarian group throws small bags of water to the residents behind the fence as they wait for a second consignment of food from the Liberian Government, at the West Point area, Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • West Point residents stand behind a green string marking a holding area, as they wait for a second consignment of food from the Liberian Government, at the West Point area, Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • Liberian policemen (right) speak with residents of the West Point area to calm them down as they wait for a second consignment of food from the Liberian Government, at the West Point area, Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 22, 2014.
  • Kevin Brantly, the American doctor who, along with a second American aid worker, contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia, has recovered and was discharged from Emory University Hospital, Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 21, 2014.
  • Kevin Brantly, who contracted the deadly virus Ebola, looks at his wife Amber during a press conference at Emory University Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 21, 2014.
  • Kevin Brantly (left), who contracted the deadly Ebola virus, looks down as his wife Amber (center) hugs a member of Emory's medical staff during a press conference at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 21, 2014.
  • Kevin Brantly, who contracted the deadly Ebola virus, hugs a member of Emory's medical staff during a press conference at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 21, 2014.
  • Kevin Brantly (left), who contracted the deadly Ebola virus, thanks Bruce Ribner, medical director of Emory's Infectious Disease Unit during a press conference at Emory University Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 21, 2014.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs