An Outbreak of Outbreaks: Humanitarian Epidemiology in West Africa

by John Pringle

I was disappointed that I couldn’t go to West Africa sooner. The Ebola epidemic was at its peak in the fall of 2014, the same time that I was preparing for my doctoral defence. I watched “Ebola Frontline” which conveyed tragedy and urgency. The documentary followed Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) doctor Javid Abdelmoneim as he cared for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.[1] It was graphic and raw, something out of Dafoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. That people had to be turned away from Ebola treatment centres was profoundly inhumane. That traumatized aid workers had to turn people away because treatment centres were overrun, to watch helplessly as people died agonizing deaths in cars or on the ground—was yet another searing reminder of our collective failure, that there is no shared responsibility for global health, and that our notion of ‘international community’ is more dream than reality.