This week in our lectures we learned the term “structural violence”, coined by Paul Farmer, that can be explained best by breaking it into its two parts. Structure, comes from the social arrangement being completely rooted in our economic and political systems. It is violent because they cause injury to people. This phrase is used to describe the way social arrangements can put specific individuals in harm’s way. To call Ebola an emerging disease is not accurate. According to Paul Farmer, Ebola was identified decades ago, why it is just now gaining attention could be because of who is now at risk, “Is it simply because they have come to affect more visible-read, more “valuable”-persons?”(Farmer 1999, 156). Historically Ebola breakouts occurred in isolated villages in remote areas. Michael Osterholm points out in The Changing Face of West Africa Has Fueled The Ebola Crisis that the virus has not changed, Africa has changed. The population in Africa has tripled over the last four decades; remote areas and isolated peoples are now closely confined. The first step to combat Ebola and other infectious diseases is to find the root of the problem. In many cases this problem has underlying socioeconomic ties. Studies conducted have found a strong correlation between poverty and the spread of infectious diseases. Partners in Health stated that Ebola suffers living in poor conditions infected 3.5 times more people than suffers living in rich areas (Partners In Health, 2016). This information is staggering, it points at a clear first step, invest in medical care in impoverish areas. Focusing on developing the slums could significantly reduce future risks of infectious disease outbreaks, “Poverty makes people sick; treat both” (Partner in Health, 2016). Quarantining entire villages does not solve the underlying problem. Most importantly they need supportive care in the form of “staff, stuff, and supplies”. Areas need properly trained medical staff and the supplies necessary to keep them safe. It should start with community health workers first, followed by nurses, then doctors. Infectious disease specialists are not needed to treat Ebola or malaria.
The current state of the world has lead to much debate of the health and well-being of those who have had to flee their homes to become refugees. Similar to what occurred in Africa, large groups of people living in close and unsanitary quarters. The likelihood of the spread of infectious disease is high. From the Spirit Catches You and You Fall, like those in Africa the people in the refugee camps were forced to live in toxic conditions, “the camp officials tend to hold the Hmong responsible for their own dependence, poor health, and lack of cleanliness” (Fadiman 1998, 180).
African Ebola Outbreak: Growing Inequality in Global Healthcare at Root of Crisis. Democracy Now! 2014. http://www.democracynow.org/2014/8/22/dr_paul_farmer_on_african_ebola
Beaubien, Jason. “The Changing Face of Western Africa Has Fueled The Ebola Crisis”. September 2014. NPR. http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2014/09/05/346142023/the-changing-face-of-west-africa-has-fueled-the-ebola-crisis
Fadiman, Anne. 1998. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Farmer, Paul. 1999. Partner to the Poor. University of California Press
Partners In Health. “Study Finds Poverty Spread Ebola”. January 2016. http://www.pih.org/blog/study-finds-poverty-accelerated-ebola