Tag Archives: Nigeria

Lack of Education: The Real Reason for the Spread of Ebola

Since the latest Ebola outbreak began in March, there have been more than 2,100 reported cases and 1,145 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

This is already by far the most serious Ebola outbreak in recorded history.

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Click to enlarge (Courtesy of the New York Times)

But the disease isn’t some super-virus that is spreading through the air and infecting anyone who comes close. The only way it can be spread is through bodily fluids- getting the blood or vomit of a sick person in your eyes, nose, or mouth, or in an open wound.

So it’s actually relatively difficult to contract the disease, if you understand how it spreads. But the problem is that almost everyone who’s becoming infected now does not know how Ebola spreads.

That’s one of the reasons it has spread so fast. You see, an Ebola victim is most infectious right after they die. This is because they have very high-levels of the virus in their blood at that point.

Also, the total destruction of their immune system causes them to start leaking blood from every pore in their body (this is why Ebola is called “hemorrhagic fever”). These secretions cover the skin of the deceased with a thin film containing high concentrations of the virus.

The stages of Ebola. Click to enlarge

So when the families of victims preform their traditional burial practices, which include kissing and touching the body of the deceased, they give Ebola by far its best opportunity to spread.

This lack of knowledge about how the disease spreads has also caused people to become distrusting of the medical facilities that treat Ebola patients.

“People have no idea how infectious diseases work. They see people go into the hospital sick and come out dead—or never come out at all… They think if they can avoid the hospital they can survive,”

says Dr. Terry O’Sullivan, director of the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy Research (an American agency that has been aiding in the battle against Ebola).

Dr. O’Sullivan recently made an appearance on ABC News to discuss the outbreak (via Youtube)

When Uganda tried to stop the spread of the virus by preventing relatives from seeing their dead family members, it sparked a great deal of hostility and fear.

A rumor spread that the bodies were being kept for nefarious purposes, making the public even more distrusting of foreign health workers (some people believe the foreign health workers were actually the ones who brought the disease to Africa).

When Uganda tried to alleviate the problem by creating a mass graveyard where relatives could see (but not touch) their deceased loved ones, pandemonium broke out.

Villagers ran from the ambulances that transported them there, attacking humanitarian workers and attempting to burn down the hospital. As the Daily Beast’s Abby Haglage put it,

“They feared the disease—but they feared the medicine even more, as well as the people delivering it.”

Many people avoid going to clinics like this one even when they start showing symptoms of Ebola because of their belief that checking in to a treatment facility is an almost certain death sentence

Yesterday evening, this ignorance manifested itself again when a quarantine center for suspected Ebola patients in West Point, a slum in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia, was attacked and looted by protesters.

The protesters were unhappy that patients were being brought into their community from other parts of the capital, and some even believed that the whole Ebola outbreak was a hoax used to take advantage of them.

20 suspected Ebola patients who were being monitored for symptoms left the center during the attacks, but the real danger comes from the blood-stained sheets and mattresses that were looted by the protesters.

Warning shots from police weren’t enough to disperse the crowd of several hundred local residents who gathered near the clinic before it was stormed and looted. Click to enlarge (Getty Images)

A senior police official in the area expressed worry that the looting spree could spread the virus all over West Point, an area that is home to about 50,000 people, almost all of which live in serious poverty and lack basic health resources.

He called the attack,

“…one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in my life.”

I understand his frustration, but his comment should make us ask ourselves the following question: where did this stupidity come from?

Stupidity is simply a lack of knowledge.

Consider this: in the three countries that have been hit the hardest by this outbreak (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia), literacy rates are between 35% and 45%.

Also, keep in mind that the vast majority of these literate people live in the major cities. In the rural areas, where the disease has really been spreading, literacy rates can be as low as 10%.

The extent of the outbreak as of August 11. Click to enlarge

What we need to understand about this outbreak is that if we would have invested in educating these people 20 years ago, we would not be spending exorbitant amounts of money now in an attempt to stop a disease whose primary victims don’t even understand how it spreads.

Also, the increased education levels would have probably led to a lot more local people becoming health workers.

Not only would there have been more health workers to deal with the outbreak, but a much larger portion of them would’ve been natives with the trust of the locals, rather than foreign workers who most locals are suspicious of.

The bottom line is that education is the answer to almost every problem in the world. Why? Because it gives people the ability to solve their own problems.

Related reading:

Muslim Countries Are Becoming Increasingly Concerned About Muslim Extremism and Terrorism (Graphs)

On a number of occasions, I’ve heard people talking about how the Muslim world is sympathetic to the cause of extremest militant groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Well, the Pew Research Center recently carried out a study on the global attitudes towards Islamic extremism.

The study (which was carried out between April and May, before the rise of the new terrorist group ISIS) polled 14,000 respondents from 14 different predominantly-Muslim countries. The researchers found that,

“Concern about Islamic extremism is high among countries with substantial Muslim populations.”

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Pew also found that people living in the Middle East have become increasingly concerned about Islamic extremism in their countries since last year:

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Unfavorable views of Hezbollah have risen everywhere except in Lebanon, where the group is based. Click to enlarge

Despite Hezbollah’s popularity in Lebanon, people don’t typically have a favorable opinion of the extremist groups based in their country. The study found that nearly 60% of Pakistanis have an unfavorable opinion of the Taliban and almost 80% of Nigerians have an unfavorable opinion of Boko-Haram.

The study also showed that sentiment about Al-Qaeda is consistently negative. Lebanon had the most unfavorable opinion of the group, a view shared by Christians and Muslims alike in the country:

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Pew also did a breakdown of Muslims’ view on suicide bombing (in Lebanon they broke the numbers down by the respondent’s sect of Islam):

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While some of these numbers are disconcertingly high, Pew also showed that support for suicide bombing appears to be decreasing over time:

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Read the full report and check out the rest of the data from the Pew Research Center here.

BREAKING: Nigerian Residents Kill 200+ Boko Haram Fighters Who Tried Raiding Their Villages This Morning

Earlier today, the residents of three small villages in Nigeria took their security into their own hands. Facing more than 300 well-armed Boko Haram fighters, the villagers, poorly trained and ill-equipped, fought courageously, foiling the attack and killing upwards of 200 Boko Haram members.

In the month that has passed since Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 girls from a school in Chibok, Nigeria, the government has done little to protect members of other villages in the area. So the residents of the villages of Menari, Tsangayari and Garawa made sure that they would be ready in the event that Boko Haram attacked again.

The wreckage left behind by a recent Boko Haram attack on another village

One of the villagers who fought against the militants talked to Nigeria’s Premium Times after the attack, saying,

“We have told them (Boko Haram) that they cannot take their attacks to our village because, we have taken measures both security wise and spiritually to prevent them.”

In the wee hours of the morning, the Boko Haram force attacked Menari, where they killed 60 people. But news of the attack spread very quickly, and the villages of Tsangayari and Garawa were more than ready for the militants when they arrived.

The villager who spoke with the Premium Times continued,

“They wanted to attack us just the way they did in Bama, Konduga and Damboa, but we got the wind of it and all of us laid ambush for them; when they neared the village, we opened fire using our Dane duns, double barrel rifles and bows-and-arrows. Most of them who were shocked took to their heels, but many of them died, some that were injured have been caught alive and are with the security people as I am talking to you.”

Villagers celebrate their victory over Boko Haram

The villagers were able to seize 90 motorcycles (Boko Haram fighters’ vehicle of choice), three all-terrain vans and even an armored tank, as well as killing at least 200 of the militants. A relief worker in the area estimated that the number may actually be closer to 250.

Read more from Pulse.ng here and CNN here.

Deals With the Devil: Should We Negotiate With Groups Like Boko Haram? (Opinion and Poll)

On April 14, the anti-western militant group Boko Haram kidnapped over 270 teenage girls from a boarding school in Nigeria. Since then, reports have come out that the girls are being auctioned off as wives to their captors for as little as $12 a piece.

This incident seems to have really brought the brutality of the group to the forefront, despite the fact that less than a month earlier, Boko Haram shot and burned 59 male students at another Nigerian boarding school, telling the girls to leave and go find husbands (Boko Haram is extremely conservative, believing women should not be educated and should play a traditional domestic role in the family).

Masked Boko Haram gunmen

Earlier today, the Obama administration announced that it would be increasing its role in the search effort, sending a team of military, intelligence and law enforcement personnel to assist the Nigerian government.

I’m all for doing anything that might increase the chance of returning the kidnapped girls to their families, but please excuse me for being cynical about this latest news. For me, it immediately recalls memories of the botched #Kony2012 campaign.

If you need a refresher, back in 2012, the non-profit group Invisible Children launched a campaign with the goal of raising awareness about Josef Kony, leader of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), and his practice of kidnapping young boys and turning them into child soldiers.

One of the graphics from the Kony 2012 campaign

Following the explosion of the #Kony2012 campaign, both local forces (like the Ugandan army) and specialized foreign units (like the U.S. Special Forces) stepped up their activity in the region, with hopes of capturing Kony and ending his reign of terror once and for all. Two years later, he is still at large (most likely in a remote area of the Central African Republic), with many of his LRA soldiers still with him.

My point is this- when we hear about horrific crimes like Boko Haram’s recent mass-kidnapping, we respond with our most unrefined emotion: anger.

We get pissed off that such backwards and extreme ideologies like those espoused by Boko Haram even still exist in our modern world. We get pissed off that the local governments are either too corrupt, too scared or simply too apathetic to really do anything about the crimes. We get pissed off that some people aren’t as pissed off about the tragedy as we are.

When we get mad, we get vindictive. We hear about the horrific things being done to the girls in begin to equate justice with vengeance, while completely losing track of the real issues here.

Everybody seems to want to send in all our best guns (figure of speech) and shoot Boko Haram out of the jungles where they’re hiding- this is simply unrealistic. The central region of Africa has millions of square miles of virtually uncharted “bushlands” (African use the term “the bush” to describe uninhabited dense areas of forest).

Trying to track down Boko Haram and the kidnapped girls would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack… if that needle was constantly moving locations and was way more familiar with the layout of the haystack than you.

The American government is famous for saying it won’t negotiate with terrorists (even though we’ve done so on many occasions). If Obama were to announce right now that we were negotiating a ransom for the girls, he would likely be blasted in the media as a spineless terrorist-appeaser.

White House Spokesman Jay Carney announcing the United States’ new increased role in the search for the kidnapped girls at daily White House briefing on Tuesday (Photo: Susan Walsh / AP)

But would that really be so bad? Try to remove your emotions from the decision- nobody likes the thought of rewarding people for committing heinous crimes like this kidnapping, but we’re already three weeks removed from the original crime: what are our chances of recovering even a fraction of the girls (alive) using force? I’d say that chance is almost zero.

Boko Haram promulgates a message that western culture (specifically western education) is evil, and that western powers like the United States are trying to spread evil progressive ideologies and create modern-day forms of colonialism. We cannot give them more ammunition for their propaganda machine.

One thing our foreign policy “experts” haven’t seemed to grasp in recent years is how we constantly create more enemies for ourselves by taking the bait of fringe militant groups. Look at Al-Qaeda for example: how many future insurgents did we create from all of the “collateral damage” (ie. civilian deaths) that resulted from our stubborn obsession with eradicating this group?

Not blaming Bush here, just illustrating a concept. Our foreign/military policy is pretty consistent regardless as to which party is in in office

One of the biggest reasons why we are disliked by many people in other countries is that we are perceived as a schoolyard bully who is constantly trying to police the whole world. Sending in our special forces to fight a guerilla war in the jungle with an army that has no uniform and is full of young kids is just asking for trouble.

Boko Haram’s leadership would use this move as proof that the U.S. cared less about the girls’ well-being than about their own strategic interests in the region. And they would definitely make sure to publicize all of the graphic images, especially the ones of dead children (even if the kids were child soldiers).

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau appearing in one of many homemade propaganda films (Photo: AFP)

Because of these factors, I think that negotiation is clearly the better option. It has the highest likelihood of recovering the girls safely and the lowest likelihood of becoming another black eye on our foreign policy record. Plus, it would show we cared more about the principles of equality and universal education than we do about maintaining a military presence around the world.

And if it was successful, why couldn’t we just go after Boko Haram afterwards? They would no longer have any leverage in the situation and the fact that we made sure to secure the girls first would probably make it a lot less likely that people would be suspicious of ulterior motives.

Obviously, we can’t ignore the fact that we would be, in effect, helping to fund Boko Haram by paying them a ransom for the girls. But we have to ask ourselves what’s more important to us: the lives of the girls, or revenge against Boko Haram. The latter will always be an available option, but we may be quickly running out of time to accomplish the former.

Woman Leading Protests Over Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls Detained on Orders of President’s Wife

About three weeks ago (on the evening of April 14), the anti-western militant group Boko Haram (whose name literally means Western Education is sinful) stormed an all-girls boarding school in the Chibok region of Nigeria and kidnapped 234 female students.

A few days ago, a video surfaced in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau announced that he plans to sell off the girls as wives, saying:

“God instructed me to sell them, they are his properties and I will carry out his instruction.”

There was also a report last week that some of the girls were being sold as brides to their kidnappers for just $12 a piece.

Although Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon has made speeches assuring that the government will find the girls, it doesn’t seem that much is actually being done, and Nigerians have very little confidence in the government finding the girls.

Last week, Naomi Mutah, a representative of the Chibok community from which the girls were taken, organized a protest outside of the NIgerian capital of Abuja. The protestors criticized the government for not doing enough to find the girls and fight Boko Haram.

Nigerian women protest the government’s lack of action in front of the capital in Abuja (Photo: Reuters)

Earlier today, the BBC reported that Nigeria’s First Lady Patience Jonathon called a meeting for those affected by the tragedy- the Chibok community sent Ms. Mutah to represent them. Following the meeting, Ms. Mutah was taken to a police station and detained.

The first lady is a very powerful political figure in Nigeria and apparently felt slighted that the mothers of the abducted girls had sent Ms. Mutah to the meeting.

President Goodluck Jonathon with his wife First Lady Patience Jonathon (Photo: Vanguard)

Pogo Bitrus, another community leader from Chibok, told the BBC that he had been to the police station where Mutah was reportedly being held, but found no written records of her being there. He said he hoped the first lady would soon, “realize her mistake.”

The AP talked to another community leader, Saratu Angus Ndirpaya, who was at the meetings. She said that the first lady had accused the activists of supporting Boko Haram, and had even accused them of completely fabricating the abductions to give the government a bad name.

Read more from the BBC here.


11 African Countries Are Building a “Great Green Wall of Africa” to Stop the Spread of the Sahara Desert

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the best farmland and in the world. So naturally, the vast majority of food production in Africa takes place there.

However, the Sahara desert has been slowly spreading south, covering previously fertile lands with sand and absorbing them into the desert in a process known as desertification.  A UN report from 2007 estimated that if the desertification is left unchecked, 2/3 of Africa’s arable land will be covered with sand by the year 2025. It is this rapid spreading of the Sahara that inspired the idea for the Great Green Wall of Africa.

Satellite image of the Sahara Desert

First proposed about 50 years ago, the concept didn’t really get substantial consideration until just over a decade ago. The basic idea is to make a wall of trees and vegetation to create a buffer against the wind-blown sand, stopping the Sahara’s southward spread.

The Great Green Wall will be 4,750 miles long and 9 miles wide when it is completed. 11 African countries are working together to make it happen: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

Proposed layout of the Great Green Wall (click to enlarge)
Proposed layout of the Great Green Wall (click to enlarge)

Protection from the sand won’t be the only benefit of the project, however. Not only is it bringing thousands of jobs to people living in poverty, but it is also attracting large numbers of scientists, medical professionals and tourists to the area and turning previously unusable land into gardens and nurseries.

Read more from Atlas Obscura here.

Mob Rounds Up and Brutally Beats 14 Men to “Cleanse” Neighborhood of Gays

Homophobia in Africa has been growing at an alarming pace in recent years.

In January, The Higher Learning reported on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni refusing to approve a law passed by the Ugandan parliament that would have made homosexuality punishable by life in prison.

Abuja, Nigeria (Photo: Nigerian Association of Utah)

Earlier today (1/15/2014), human rights’ activists from the International Center on Advocacy for the Right to Health (CARH) reported the savage beating of 14 men in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

On Thursday (1/13/2014), Ifeanyi Orazulike, who works for the CARH, received a panicked e-mail from a colleague.

In the e-mail, the colleague (who’s name was not released) said he was hiding from a mob of about 40 men armed with wooden clubs and iron bars.

He sad that the mob started going door-to-door around 1 a.m., pulling suspected homosexual men from their homes, beating them and threatening death if they were to return to the neighborhood.

Demostrators in NYC protest against Nigerian homophobia (Photo: Sahara Reporters)
Demostrators in NYC protest against Nigerian homophobia (Photo: Sahara Reporters)

In May of last year, Nigeria passed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, first proposed in 2006.

This law doesn’t seem very severe compared to the proposed Ugandan legislation. Critics, however, say it only serves to encourage and embolden attacks like the one on Thursday, citing Nigeria’s long history of mob justice.

Read the full story from the AP here.

Feature image courtesy of Huffington Post.