Stories from Quick Reads and Health
“When will Ebola news go 24/7?,” asks a US/Canadian professor Crawford Kilian:
I have long been used to outbreak news dropping off on weekends. The media, government agencies, and NGOs all knock off on Friday afternoon and show up again Monday morning.
But after the last few weeks of Ebola, I'm losing patience with the folks who make a living covering the outbreak. Yes, good for them and the collective agreements that give them eight-hour days, weekends off, extended holidays, and excellent health benefits.
But if Ebola is as unprecedented as Dr. Chan says it is, how about finding the money to pay those folks overtime so Ebola news carries on over the weekend (not to mention statutory holidays)? Can you imagine news about Pearl Harbor waiting until some reporter sauntered in on the morning of Monday, December 8, 1941? Or JFK's death going unreported until the following Monday, November 25, 1963?
But the West African media, with a few exceptions, go into hibernation on Friday afternoons and revive sometime the following Monday. So do WHO and the other major health agencies. I know very well that they've suffered budget cuts by governments that still think austerity is the road to recovery from the crash of 2008.
The Press Union of Liberia is concerned about the threat to freedom of information as a result of the actions taken by the government to limit the expansion of the Ebola virus. The union wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice to draw his attention to the challenges media workers are currently facing. Here is an excerpt of the letter:
The Press Union of Liberia’s attention is specifically drawn to several circumstances that do not only restrain journalists in their obligation to seek out and share useful news and information with the public, but significantly threaten even media participation in the global fight against Ebola. By all accounts, the media space in Liberia has been a significant partner in the fight to strengthen awareness in our society about the impact and challenges of the epidemic. Notwithstanding the loss of revenue due to the emergency nature of the epidemic and the effect on general life, the media has remained committed to this fight. Unfortunately, several actions against media by government actors, especially during these times, have simply given room to growing skepticism about the disease, and further exacerbating the denials within the community. We think this is unfair and improper.
Liga Inan is using mobile phones to connect pregnant women and health workers in Timor Leste. The innovative program provides mothers with vital information and health advice to ensure the safe delivery of babies. Since its launch, almost 2,000 mothers have been already enrolled in the program.
A blog, ‘Kórházi koszt‘, was launched over the summer of 2014 in Hungary, exposing the poor quality and small rations of food in Hungarian hospitals.
The blog rose from the outrage among Hungarians who stayed at hospitals and received not only small portions of food, but often cheap and “disgusting” meals. The blog's Facebook page gathered almost 6000 followers within just weeks. In the meantime, Buzzfeed listed pictures of 22 hospital meals served in different countries, making Hungarian netizens envious of the quality of food served there.
— Vaintche Rahouli (@vincraholi) August 28, 2014
Twitter and Facebook users from Madagascar's capital city, Antananarivo, have posted several photos of locusts invading the city. Locust invasions are not unusual in Madagascar, especially after tropical storms, but they are very uncommon in larger cities. Locusts can have a devastating effect on crops, especially in a country that has struggled with bouts of famine in past years.
Without medical professionals fluent in indigenous languages or without proper interpretation services in Mexican hospitals, there is a risk that patients will not be able to adequately describe what ails them, writes Yásnaya Aguilar in her regular blog column for EstePaís. She provides examples how the Mixe language allows her to more accurately describe her pain to a nurse or doctor that can speak the same language, and how a translation into Spanish can still be somewhat limiting. She writes,
En mixe por ejemplo tengo un conjunto de palabras distinto para nombrar el dolor físico: pëjkp, jäjp, pä’mp, we’tsp… Apenas hallo equivalentes para alguna en español. Las diferencias todavía son más grandes y hay momentos en los que sólo puedo describir un dolor en español o sólo alcanzo a nombrarlo en mixe. Hablar ambas lenguas me permite tener a mi servicio un inventario más nutrido de palabras para describir mi dolor, aunque en general, cuando algo me duele mucho, el mixe toma el control de mis pensamientos.
For example, in mixe I have a group of distinct words available to me to describe physical pain: pëjkp, jäjp, pä’mp, we’tsp. I'm barely able to find the equivalent words for these words in Spanish. The differences are very large and there are times when I can only describe the pain in Spanish and there are other times when I can only describe the pain in Mixe. Being able to speak both languages allows me to have at my disposal a richer inventory of words to describe my pain, although generally, when something is causing me a lot of pain, the Mixe language takes control of my thoughts.
The universal right to health care cannot be guaranteed when the majority of hospitals have no medical practitioners that speak indigenous languages and because interpretation can only go so far since they do not have the same knowledge of the human body. And she adds that this could potentially cause misdiagnoses and without these language services, “there is no way to build bridges of empathy and to effectively understand that your ‘it hurts’ could also be the same as mine.”
The communities, characteristically living in the mountains or their fringes, have depended mostly on plants and other natural products from the forest to prevent or treat sickness. But environmental degradation and the onslaught of lowland mainstream cultures now threaten their healing traditions.
At the estuary of Moche river in the northern Peruvian province of Trujillo, members of the NGO Corazones Bondadosos (Generous Hearts) fed more than 400 pelicans with fresh fish to prevent their starvation.
— Jota Rosado (@jotarosadol) septiembre 7, 2014
Collective ‘Corazones Bondadosos’ (Generous Hearts) feeds pelicans in Trujillo. Noble gesture. They ask authorities to support them.
— laindustria.pe (@weblaindustria) septiembre 1, 2014
Dead pelicans are a health hazard.
In late August, about 120 dead pelicans were buried at the beach Las Delicias, located in the same area. They were buried six feet under the sand and then covered with lime to prevent potential illnesses.
The Ebola Truth is a Facebook page that aims to document the situation with the Ebola virus on the African continent.
On August 19, 2014, the Republic of Cameroon closed its borders with Nigeria in a bid to halt the spread of the Ebola virus. However, the government made this decision without giving enough thought to the thousands of travelers – mostly Cameroonian citizens and Nigerians resident in Cameroon – caught on the wrong side of the border. Consequently, many of these travelers ended being trapped on the Cameroon/Nigeria border for days, in appalling conditions, while waiting to be screened for the Ebola virus before being allowed back into Cameroon.
Batuo's Blog published the first-person narrative of Patricia Temeching, one of the travelers who was trapped on the Cameroon/Nigeria border for over 40 hours:
I go through Nigerian security checks and my passport is grudgingly returned to me. I walk across the bridge. The Cameroonian side of the bridge is crowded, as is the police/customs post that is perched three meters away from the end of the bridge… When I inquire why there are so many people on the bridge a miserable-looking woman replies, “We are waiting for the medical team to screen us for Ebola before we can go into Cameroon…”
‘How long have you been waiting?’ I ask.
“Fifteen hours. I came yesterday just after the medical team had left.”
I join the throng of people on the bridge and we wait and wait. Hunger and anger consume me. All I have in my travelling bag are a few clothes and my academic papers. By evening more and more people have joined us and we are all crowded on the bridge and in the small police post building, where we spend the night on our feet. The stench of urine and faeces emanating from the back of the building combines with the unhealthy sweat from two hundred unwashed bodies and leaves a nauseating sickening feeling in the air.
In the morning we receive information that the medical team will arrive soon. We are all looking forward to it. By noon nothing has happened…
This afternoon, after I have spent 24 hours at the border post, we are allowed to trek to Ekok town. It is a trek an Ebola patient will certainly not survive. We pay boys to carry our bags. When we reach Ekok town we are bundled into an empty building with no lights, no toilet facilities and no beds. This it to be our accommodation until the medical team arrives. Finally the “medical team” arrives. It is the doctor from Eyumojock. We go through the “screening”. This is how it happens: Eau de Javel [bleach] is poured into water. We file in and wash our hands. We also wash our mouths. Then you are cleared.
Once I am cleared (at 10 p.m.), I leave the ‘quarantine’ building and go to look for a hotel. I find a run-down inn and finally crawl into a sorry-looking bed with tired sheets. After spending forty hours on my feet this bed feels like a king’s bed. I sleep the sleep of the dead.
This is my greatest worry: What if one person among us (two hundred travellers) actually came with Ebola from Nigeria? The chances are we might all have become contaminated in the past fifty hours from being held promiscuously together, and we would now be taking the virus to two hundred different Cameroonian families.