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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs