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

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs