More than 11,000 lives were lost, entire families wiped out and health systems shattered in the most recent and horrific Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The shocking aftermath forms the basis of a panel discussion this week.The West Africa episode highlights dire need to prepare for the resurgence of an epidemic of the same kind and learn from past experiences. In order to achieve this, several initiatives have been launched including the publication of The Politics of Fear: Médecins Sans Frontières and the West African Ebola Epidemic, edited by Michiel Hofman and Sokhieng Au.
This book – authored by MSF staff and external experts in medicine and social sciences – states that the response to the 2014–2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa was driven more by fear than by medical concerns. It provides an intimate account, told through various disciplinary lenses (political science, anthropology, clinical medicine, bioethics, history) of the most devastating health emergencies in recent times.
“The purpose of this book is not to establish what is good or bad, but instead to give us the means to face the challenges and constraints posed by epidemic response mechanisms that often require us to choose between far from perfect options in a hopeless situation”, explains Michiel Hofman. “Some offer answers whereas others only ask more questions about an epidemic that has been universally defined as unprecedented.”
Uganda, however, have managed to curb the spread of the disease in recent past. “Political will is a critical component in eliminating any epidemic,” notes Balinandi Stephen, a Medical Research Laboratory Specialist at Uganda research Virus Institute. “This will enabled the implementation of a system that rapidly identifies any suspected cases, gets them tested and initiates treatment and prevention protocols,” Balinandi adds.
In order to present and discuss the outcomes of the book with national and international actors based in Nairobi, an event is being organised on 27 July from 14h00 at the Kenyatta National Hospital auditorium. Kenyatta National Hospital and Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors without Borders (MSF) invite you to the launch of the book “Politics of Fear”, screening of the Ebola documentary trailer “Affliction” and a panel discussion to analyze the West Africa Ebola response: challenges and lessons learnt.