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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Briefing: Ebola-myths, realities, and structural violence
Authors:Wilkinson, Annie
Leach, MelissaISNI
Periodical:African Affairs: The Journal of the Royal African Society (ISSN 1468-2621)
Geographic terms:Liberia
Sierra Leone
External link:http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/114/454/136.short
Abstract:As of October 2014, the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea had killed 4,951 and infected 13,567. These numbers are likely to be vastly underestimated and the disease has crippled families, health systems, livelihoods, food supplies and economies in its wake. Why has this outbreak been so much larger than previous ones? The scale of the disaster has been attributed to the weak health systems of affected countries, their lack of resources, the mobility of communities and their inexperience in dealing with Ebola. This answer, however, is woefully de-contextualized and de-politicized. This briefing examines responses to the outbreak and offers a different set of explanations, rooted in the history of the region and the political economy of global health and development. It highlights how structural violence has contributed to the epidemic. Structural violence refers to the way institutions and practices inflict avoidable harm by impairing basic human needs. The Ebola crisis has emerged from the meeting of long-term economic, social, technical, discursive, and political exclusions and injustices, now shown to be dramatically unsustainable. These multiple impairments have fed into three additional areas of 'weakness', which are discussed here: 1. The failure of outbreak response and global health governance, 2. Compromised health systems and development policy, and 3. Misleading assumptions and myths. Misleading assumptions and myths include the idea that a containment strategy, which had worked in single countries in Central and East Africa, would work on highly mobile border areas. A myth is also the bushmeat connection, and the virus's jump from bats to people due to supposed regional deforestation for the first time. Misguided exhortations against eating bushmeat have not just denied people vital sources of protein and livelihood, but have contributed to the deluge of misinformation that has undermined local trust in what officials say about Ebola. A problem has also been the denial of valuable input from the affected communities. For example with regard to funerals, respectful dialogue between medical experts on the other hand and local populations on the other hand make it possible to navigate both public health and community concerns. Ref., sum. [ASC Leiden abstract]