News / Africa

Social Anthropologist: 'Get Tough' Measures Won't Work for Ebola

FILE - A health worker, wearing head-to-toe protective gear, offers water to a woman with Ebola at a treatment center for infected people, as a young boy stands nearby in Kenema Government Hospital, in Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone.
FILE - A health worker, wearing head-to-toe protective gear, offers water to a woman with Ebola at a treatment center for infected people, as a young boy stands nearby in Kenema Government Hospital, in Kenema, Eastern Province, Sierra Leone.
Anne Look

As countries affected by the Ebola outbreak announce tougher measures to check the spread of the disease - including possible jail time for those accused of hiding Ebola patients - public health experts say the “get tough” approach will not work and may just alienate affected communities even more. 

Senegalese social anthropologist Cheikh Ibrahima Niang said the days he spent in the village of Njala have stuck with him the most from his month of research in eastern Sierra Leone, one of the three countries most affected by the Ebola outbreak. 

Njala used to be home to about 300 people, but many houses were empty.  Whole families were dead, Niang said.

Struggling with outbreak

Niang said his team began interviewing residents about the Ebola outbreak and people told them it was the first time anyone had listened to them.

"They said, 'We have had 46 people die in the past month and no one has come to see us or talk to us,' " he said.

Niang said he has heard this a lot from people struggling with the outbreak: They are being left out of decisions about efforts to save them. And it's no wonder officials are meeting with resistance, he said.

Niang said, “There is this whole work of discussion and persuasion that could have been done, but instead we have authoritarian methods. And when you go that route, you will have problems.”

He said he was in the town of Kenema on July 25 when a mob tried to attack an Ebola treatment center. Police dispersed them with live bullets and tear gas. 

A mentally unstable woman had declared that Ebola is a "hoax," but Niang said there was more going on.

He said these incidents "are not really about denying Ebola exists. They are an expression of the tension, the anguish people feel."

"And, above all, they are a a cry for reassurance and support," Niang said.

Measures being taken

Affected countries and their neighbors are shutting borders. Airlines are shutting down flights to and from affected countries. Sierra Leone and Liberia have security forces manning barricades and imposing quarantines.

Meanwhile, Niang said health centers and health workers in the affected countries are overwhelmed and underequipped.

Niang said the health workers he spoke to “expressed a frustration, a real anger at having been practically abandoned.”

Containing Ebola is complex.

The virus is transmitted either through eating bush meat or through contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

To stop an outbreak, people have to change their behaviors, their traditions. 

Instead of a mother caring for, or even touching, her sick child, she is told to take the child to a hospital. Families are being told they cannot bury their dead as they always have, that people trained in burying Ebola victims must do so.

This is the domain of "the sacred," Niang said, "the absolute," the familial bonds and emotions that make us human. He said people need to be convinced that the precautions are necessary.

Get tough measures

Yet, governments are resorting to force. 

Sierra Leone’s parliament voted "yes" this week to a law to jail people for as much as two years for harboring suspected Ebola patients.

Niang said those measures will not work.

He said, “This paternalistic approach has to stop. It is like we are treating people like children. Listen, take this, do that, this is good for you." 

Instead, he said authorities should recognize that they are dealing with a mature population and "talk to them, adult to adult, to find solutions together.”

According to the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health, Ebola has killed 341 people in the country this year, with the total number of confirmed cases nearing 1,000.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
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 Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

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.

VOA Blogs