Via Ebola Deeply, a thoughtful and disturbing article: Culture, Corruption and the Context of the Ebola Crisis. It's an interview with Corinne Dufka, senior researcher at the Africa division of Human Rights Watch. Excerpt:
ED: To what extent have lack of accountability and entrenched corruption played a part in the shape of this outbreak?
Dufka: All three countries are emerging from decades of profound turmoil. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the tumult took the form of brutal armed conflicts punctuated by massacres, widespread sexual violence, displacement of millions and whole-scale pillage and destruction of state infrastructure.
For its part, Guinea endured some 50 years of authoritarian rule characterized by political violence and repression. The violence in all three countries was rooted in endemic corruption, predatory state actors and the weak rule of law institutions.
Thankfully, concerted diplomatic engagement including U.N. peacekeeping missions helped silence the guns and usher in a period of stability.
But when the three countries’ presidents assumed office – Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006, Sierra Leone’s Ernest Bai Koroma in 2007, and Guinea’s Alpha Condé in 2010 – they inherited deeply broken nations, with devastated infrastructure, a legacy of communal tensions, abusive security forces, crushing poverty and phenomenally high unemployment.
Have these leaders made progress? Yes, absolutely: gross state-sponsored abuses have largely come to an end; the press and non-governmental groups are able to function freely; the state has made improvements in education and opportunity for work; and health indicators for vaccination, maternal and child mortality, as well as school enrollment, have started to improve.
Could they have done more? Again, yes. But reversing decades of violence and instability, building physical infrastructure, generating economic growth and opportunity and the social benefits that flow from it take a very, very long time.
That said, the governments of all three countries – all rich in natural resources – and their key international partners could and should have done much more to tackle perhaps the key factor underscoring decades of unrest and underdevelopment: corruption and bad economic governance.
ED: How has this outbreak affected women and children? What are the implications of children being out of school for so long, and could this impact on the direction they take in life?
Dufka: The gender and child protection aspects of Ebola are really worrying. While statistics vary, women appear to be at greater risk of contracting Ebola than men. The higher infection rates appear to result from the roles women traditionally or disproportionately occupy – including cross-border traders, health workers and traditional birth attendants – which put them at greater risk of coming into contact with the virus.
Furthermore, women more often take care of the sick and, in the case of death, traditionally wash and prepare a body for burial. Pregnant women may be at increased risk because of increased contact with health workers, and, with the collapse of health systems, improvements in maternal mortality risk being reversed.
With respect to children, UNICEF has said that children account for 22 percent of Ebola cases, and that at least 3,700 children have lost one or both parents to the epidemic.
The child protection issues for these children, many of whom have been shunned by their families and communities, are many. The right to education and health in terms of other illnesses has taken a worrying step backward given school closures and a troubling drop in vaccination rates.