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

Originally posted on Sherbro Son:

Ebola has been weighing heavily on my mind. From it hitting Ashoka, a friend who I met in Liberia in 2011, to worrying about friends and family on the ground in both Sierra Leone and Liberia, I feel sort of stuck and unable to help while being in Brazil. However in the face of a seeming panic in the U.S. about the disease invading the country, and rehashed African stereotypes in the mainstream media, I find I can contribute something by writing…

For staters, I put together a post for Cultural Anthropology’s “Hot Spots” series called “Beats, Rhymes, and Ebola.” Check it out on the Cultural Anthropology website, and listen to some of the songs I mention, plus a few bonus tracks on Africa is a Country. When you’re finished with all of that, check out my post on Africa is a Country reviewing the somewhat disappointing “Stop Ebola” coupé-décalé…

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Can Sirleaf survive ebola? Political legitimacy and government response to the ebola crisis in Liberia, by Mary Moran

The following is the complete address given by Colgate’s Mary Moran, professor of anthropology and Africana and Latin American studies, at Duke University in September. It was written for oral presentation, is unrevised, and should not be cited or circulated without permission.

When I submitted the title for this talk about two weeks ago, I was very much thinking of the term “survive” in its metaphorical sense. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected president of an African nation, faces the greatest challenge of her career, and unprecedented criticism both at home and abroad for failing to rebuild the national health care infrastructure and for her handling of the present crisis, including calls for her resignation (VOA news, Sept. 2, 2014).

I am a political anthropologist, not a medical one, and my intention here today is to try to place the government and public response to ebola in Liberia squarely in its local, historical and social/cultural context. But metaphor became concrete reality with a Front Page Africa headline on Sept. 10, “Ebola Hits Seat of Liberian Presidency; 1 Dead, 1 Quarantined” reporting that an administrative assistant to the Foreign Minister had died from ebola while her husband, also infected, was a staffer in the President’s office, two floors above in the same building. Continue reading

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The Rain after the Drought: Ebola, International Assistance and Community Initiatives in Liberia, by Charles Lawrence

Monrovia: October 3, 2014

Not so many years ago, I was part of a team monitoring and preparing humanitarian interventions to address the effects of drought in a certain region in eastern Africa. In our meeting room in London, we assessed the needs based on the latest information; our goal was to preposition lifesaving supplies and experts for rapid deployment. Then news about the rains emerged. This I greeted with optimistic fists. The crops will emerge again, waterholes will be filled, and the cattle will have their grazing fields.

The communities that have lived through several experiences of drought were less enthusiastic, members of the response team that had worked in drought affected regions were cautiously optimistic. Their experiences told them something that we would later come to understand. Continue reading

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Ebola strips Africans of their humanity, by Ginny Mooy

kenema 300x225 Ebola strips Africans from their humanity

In a speech addressing the international community, United States President Obama criticized the world leaders for their slow and inadequate response to the Ebola outbreak. Authorities warn for an exponential increase in the number of infections and even consider the possibility that Ebola could become endemic.

 
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Ten Things that Anthropologists Can Do to Fight the West African Ebola Epidemic, By Sharon Abramowitz

Like other anthropologists who have woken up mid-career and found the countries where they’ve lived and worked awash in mass deaths (and let’s be real… that’s quite a lot of us), my initial response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was to hope that the experts had the situation under control, and bury my head in the sand.

Soon, the epidemic outpaced the global health response, and the calls for help grew more urgent, but anthropologists’ phones have stayed startlingly quiet. While leaders at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), and the World Health Organization explained how factors like culture, weak governance systems, human behavior, and social organization made the outbreak unintelligible to the global health community, academics who work in the region like Danny Hoffman, Rosalind Shaw, Mats Utas, Chris Coulter, Mary Moran, Susan Shepler, Adia Benton, Mike McGovern, Sasha Newell, Gwen Heaner, and Marianne Ferme, not to mention anthropologist from the global south like Sylvain Landry Faye, have remained untapped as resources for understanding and creating innovative new approaches to attacking the Ebola outbreak at its source.
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Reading the International Crisis Group or why think tank reports have to be taken with a pinch of salt, by Berit Bliesemann de Guevara

Hillary Clinton at ICG Annual Award ceremony (Picture borrowed from glkcreative.com)

Hillary Clinton at ICG Annual Award ceremony (Picture borrowed from glkcreative.com)

Recently the New York Times caused turmoil among prestigious and influential US think tanks when it published an investigative article about concealed connections between these non-profit research organisations and a broad range of foreign countries, among them Norway, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar (NYT online, 6/9/2014). The article revealed that leading think tanks like the Center for Global Development, the Brookings Institution and the Atlantic Council are receiving funding from foreign governments in exchange for influence on the organisations’ recommendations to US policy-makers. The article criticized this practice for its lack of transparency and the supposed loss of intellectual freedom and objectivity. ‘The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington’, the authors cautioned. The attacked think tanks rejected the accusations, pointing to ‘credibility’ and ‘scholarly independence’ as their major ‘currency’, although one interviewee admitted that self-censorship could be a future problem because in times of dwindling funding sources, saving one’s job could well trump the urge to be critical.

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Is it Acceptable to Lie for a Good Cause? By Henrik Urdal

Humanitarian organizations may easily succumb to the temptation to misuse numbers and statistics in order to promote their own causes. Does the end justify the means?

urdal

Illustration: Espen Friberg / Morgenbladet

Disasters are most dangerous for moms reported Save the Children’s Carolyn S Miles in Huffington Post when presenting the organization’s State of the World’s Mothers report for 2014. The claim was followed by a number: women and children are ‘14 times more likely to die in a disaster than men’. A sky-high number when one is talking about differences in death rates and a colossal injustice if the information is reliable. But it’s not.

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