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Decolonizing Ebola Rhetorics Following the 2013–2016 West African Ebola Outbreak

Marouf Hasian, Jr.

Decolonizing Ebola Rhetorics Following the 2013-2016 West African Ebola Outbreak defends the position that, despite the supposed “lessons” that have been learned about the spread of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) after the 2013–2016 West African Ebola outbreak, there remains a need to “decolonize” the rhetorics of Ebola prevention and containment. The author asserts that the failure of governments, aid organizations, and global media to confront the structural and material legacies of colonialism in West Africa will prevent global communities from adequately dealing with sporadic Ebola outbreaks. Central to the book’s argument is that far too many communities in the “global North” are unwilling to spend the hundreds of billions of dollars that are needed for the prevention of endemic and epidemic diseases in the “global South.” Instead of coping with the impoverished legacies of colonialism, organizations like the World Health Organization support the use of small groups of “Ebola hunters” who swoop down during crises and put out EVD outbreaks using emergency health techniques. The author demonstrates how Western-oriented ways of dealing with EVD have made it difficult to convince West African populations—wary of emergency interventions after a long history of colonial medical experimentation in Africa—that those in the West truly care about the prevention of the next Ebola outbreak. Decolonizing Ebola Rhetorics ultimately argues that as long as global journalists and elite public health officials continue to blame bats, bushmeat, or indigenous burial practices for the spread of Ebola, the necessary decolonization of Ebola rhetorics will be forestalled. The author concludes the book by offering critiques of the real lessons that are learned by those who try to securitize or military Ebola containment efforts.

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Chapter 5 Memories of the Militarization and Securitization of the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa, June 2014-March 2015

Memories of the Militarization and Securitization of the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa, June 2014-March 2015



During a 2014 MSF address that was presented in front of high-level U.N. officials, Joanne Liu, the international president of Doctors Without Borders, indicated that she appreciated the generous pledges of aid and the passage of U.N. resolutions. However, she noted, the “promised surge”1 for Ebola containment had not materialized. Liu warned that it was “not enough for states to just build isolation centers,” and she elaborated by arguing that this was no time to cut corners. As far as she was concerned, the U.N. needed to scale-up their responses as they worked on vaccine development and open-source data.2 This was a not-so-veiled critique of the political economies, and the self-serving ideologies, that were a part of some Western “preparedness” plans that seemed to be geared toward handling older “Zaire Ebola”-type outbreaks. Those in the global North talked as if they were preparing for an international epidemic, but their spending plans still treated the spread of EVD as a “local” or “regional” matter that should be dealt with by the global South.

By the end of summer 2014 some 1,250 individuals had already died in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, and governmental leaders in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone were hearing from some of their advisers that moral suasion was not enough. Thousands of West African local volunteers, religious leaders, NGO employees, and others were working together to try and track down suspected victims, but ←137 | 138→the blogosphere started to fill...

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