Ebola, mistrust and humanitarian mobility? by Adia Benton

In a recent response to questions about the role of the war and the attacks on foreign health workers, I wrote:

…. if war has changed anything, the incredible influx of humanitarian interventions and aid workers during the war and its immediate aftermath — where outsiders and their local cronies seemed to benefit openly from others’ suffering — has also engendered suspicion that has helped fuel the backlash against local and international health workers.

Here, I am expanding on this claim, which is intended to complement Susan Shepler’s piece about mistrust of the ‘vampire state’.

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Liberia’s Ebola Response: The Lull, the Storm and the Aftermath, by Charles Lawrence

Monrovia, 11 August 2014

In this article, the writer urges the need to humanize the response to the Ebola Virus Disease in Liberia. Persons affected by the Ebola virus do not make them to be less human – they are human persons…fathers, mothers, sisters, friends, love ones, neighbors…the capacity to care for affected persons and to protect those health workers who are in direct contact with such persons because of their professional line of work, should be given priority.

Liberia reported its first case early in the year. There was an ebb, a period of lull when the virus appeared to have been contained. Just as the lull came, followed by this period of seeming storm, so there will be an aftermath, a period without Ebola.

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The Ebola virus and the vampire state, by Susan Shepler

Coming back to Sierra Leone at the end of June and traveling on to Liberia in July, I’ve seen a big change.  There have been hundreds of deaths, and people are definitely taking the issue more seriously now.

The virus is primarily spread by contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, so one of the precautions advised is to not shake hands with people. But I’m finding that very hard in Sierra Leone and Liberia.  We shake hands with everyone we meet.  A driver told me, “I carry all kinds of people in my car.  My children are playing with all kinds of children and then we all sit together at home.  What can I do?”  I was sitting in a crowded public transport vehicle in the Red Light neighborhood, just outside Monrovia the other day, waiting for the vehicle to fill with passengers so we could leave.  A vendor came by, hawking green garden gloves, boasting that they could be used to prevent Ebola. People around me laughed.

It’s only in the last few days that I now see hand-washing stations outside government ministries and some NGOs (though not all).  It seems a little futile when the same people go out to eat in the same cook shops with the same shared utensils.

 

Outside the Ministry of Education in Monrovia

Outside the Ministry of Education in Monrovia

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Fear and Loathing in Jos, Nigeria, by Susan Shepler

Since 2001, Jos, Nigeria is internationally known for intermittent bursts of violent, inter-religious conflict. In addition, for the past several years Nigeria has faced terror attacks by the Islamist group Boko Haram, what many would call the worst violent crisis since independence. On 20 May 2014, two bombs went off in the center of Jos, killing at least 118 people and injuring 56 more. The area targeted was Terminus Market, arguably the busiest and most densely populated location in town, a market used by all ethnic groups and by Christians and Muslims alike.

I’ve been living in Jos this past year, researching connections between formal education, the state, and armed conflict and lecturing at the university whenever classes are in session. In the course of my normal activities, I pass the location of the bomb blasts several times a week. The Nigerian government seems unwilling to describe what is happening as a war, but I lived through the tail end of the civil war in Sierra Leone, and this fear, these checkpoints, it feels a lot like a war to me. Actually, not knowing where or when the next bomb blast will occur feels worse (to me) than living in war.

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‘Monster’ Myth Hides Complexity of Sexual Violence in Conflict, by Henri Myrttinen

First posted June 13, 2014

This week has seen a flurry of activity around an issue that for far too long has been forgotten, silenced or viewed as an inevitable consequence of war: sexual violence in conflict.

London has been the centre of activity, where hundreds of politicians, activists, researchers, campaigners, care providers and, most importantly, survivors of sexual violence gathered for the Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict conference.

All of this is extremely important – but in the rush to ‘do something’ about the horrific crimes being committed in Syria, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and other conflict zones, we should not forget some basic premises.

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Short-time Girls: Underage prostitution is rampant in a society reeling from poverty and war, By Clair MacDougall

FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD JATU stood under a dull October sky on the stoop of her zinc-roofed, one-room concrete shack in New Kru Town, one of the poorest communities in Monrovia. Chubby teenage schoolgirls approached, in green tunics and with neatly braided hair, their black shoes clicking against the dusty, uneven road. Jatu’s tank top scooped across her breasts and heavily padded bra—what locals call an “iron-titty bra”—and her skin-tight leggings sat low across her buttocks, revealing her butt crack—her “junction,” as it is known in “colloqui,” or Liberian English. Jatu has fine cheekbones and brown eyes, framed by close-cropped hair—she wears it this way because she cannot afford to get it braided. As the girls passed, she turned away to hide the scars carved into the left side of her face, neck and shoulders, reminders of when she was mowed down by a taxi at the age of eight. The driver abandoned the car and fled, leaving Jatu for dead.

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The Crisis in CAR: Navigating Myths and Interests, by Ilmari Käihkö and Mats Utas

“Anarchy”, “religious war”, “genocide” and, recently, “cannibalism” – these are some of the most commonly used words in Western news media when referring to the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR), at least since the takeover of power by the rebel coalition Séléka in March 2013. The conflict, which in December alone resulted in approximately one thousand deaths, has uprooted one-fifth of CAR’s population. This conflict was by and large a consequence of former rebel leaders’ and some of their soldiers’ lack of future prospects within the troubled political-economy of the country. It is not easy to control military forces during a war – even less so after a war, when the minimum unifier (typically, regime change) has been achieved. In many cases, this is when the real problems start, as interests begin to diverge and promises made by the politicians to the fighters are not kept. This is very much the case in CAR.

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