Two weeks of links this week: Ebola in DRC, Germany seeks reparations in Zimbabwe, and more

Photo of “Local partners meeting” in Zambia, 2010 (IICD/Flickr).

In our May 13th episode, we shared a Reuters report that at least one person had died of Ebola in the Bas-Ulele province in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is potentially the first Ebola outbreak in which a vaccine could be made used to stop its spread. Merck, the maker of the vaccine – RVSV-Zebov – says up to 300,000 doses are available. It’s not clear yet how widespread this outbreak will be and whether the vaccine will be deployed. Even without the vaccine, however, the DRC has, unfortunately, a lot of experience fighting Ebola, this potential outbreak would be its eighth since the first-ever recorded outbreak in 1976. Its most recent Ebola outbreak was in 2014, concurrent with but distinct from the outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, primarily in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The DRC responded swiftly to its 2014 Ebola outbreak, drawing on its long experience with the disease. 

Voice of America is reporting that health workers in the DRC are monitoring more than 400 people who have come into contact with people suspected of being infected with Ebola. VOA reported that three deaths are believed to be linked to the outbreak: a 39-year-old man who died before he could reach a hospital, the motorcyclist transporting him and a caregiver traveling with them. In the VOA report, the World Health Organization was holding off on releasing the vaccine, awaiting permission from the Congolese government because the vaccine is still experimental.

In our latest episode, we mentioned an interesting working paper on the spread of Ebola from economist Souleymane Soumahoro (@soumduce). Soumahoro studied the 2013-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa as it related to representation in government. Looking at confirmed cases and ministerial appointments by ethnic group in Guinea and Sierra Leone, he finds a strong correlation between the two. More specifically, he finds that there were fewer Ebola cases in areas largely dominated by ethnic groups holding a substantial share of ministerial positions. He argues this could be because of two distinct pathways: (1) having your ethnic group represented in the cabinet might make resource allocation to your region more likely; and (2) people whose ethnic group is represented in cabinet may have greater trust in political institutions.

There’s so much else we’ve found interesting on the internet these last two weeks:

  • Germany is demanding compensation for its citizens who lost their land when it was reclaimed by the Zimbabwean government. You read that correctly: a former colonizer on the continent is asking for reparations. There is no side-eye emoji large enough to convey what we think here.
  • The government of Uganda is asking for increased international assistance to support its work in hosting refugees. As we’ve mentioned in previous episodes, including our conversation with Dr. Lahra Smith of Georgetown University, Uganda hosts one of the largest refugee populations in the world. Uganda’s prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda said that his country has been receiving an average of 2,000 refugees per day for the last six months, many of them fleeing violence and instability in neighboring South Sudan.
  • There is a restaurant in the DC area that is reimagining Ethiopian food and we can’t wait to go there.
  • Boko Haram Islamist militants released 82 kidnapped Nigerian women recently. This was billed by the media as a release of the “Chibok girls” because many of these women had been abducted from their school in Chibok three years ago. The Chibok kidnapping gained international attention largely through the #BringBackOurGirls online campaign. The return of these women is something to celebrate but nonetheless I’m troubled by the Nigerian government and the Western media’s treatment of the women as props to a “success story” in the fight against terrorists. The story here is complicated and for a more nuanced understanding, I encourage you to follow Hilary Matfess (@HilaryMatfess) on Twitter. We’re all looking forward to later this year, when her book Women and the War on Boko Haram will be published by Zed Books.
  • The Johns Hopkins SAIS China-Africa Research Initiative fact-checks a recent NYT story on Chinese investments in Namibia. The NYT doesn’t get a good grade.
  • There is a measles outbreak in Minnesota. Of the 63 known cases, 53 are Minnesotans of Somali descent. This VOA report on the outbreak suggests there has been a campaign targeting the Somali community promoting the false idea that vaccines cause autism. Since the outbreak however, there has been a sharp increase in MMR vaccination–from 30 Somali children getting vaccinated against measles every week to 500.
  • Paul Biya’s government in Cameroon for months has shut off connection to the internet for Anglophone regions. A Cameroonian doctor shares how the blackout affected his ability to provide health care:

“The internet blackout affected me and my patients in more ways than one.  For instance, in order to use the internet most often I need to be absent from work especially when it is urgent. Secondly, seeking second opinion from my colleague doctors [or referring a patient to a particular doctor] elsewhere had all of a sudden become impossible because of poor communication. I could no longer read recent medical updates nor refer online to something in order to properly help my patients when the need arose.”


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