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What Africa Really Needs To Fight Ebola 83

Lasrick writes Laura Kahn, a physician on the research staff of Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security, writes that the high tech solutions being promoted to help fight Ebola in Africa will make no difference. What Africa really needs is anti-corruption efforts, now. "A case in point is Liberia, which has received billions of dollars in international aid for over a decade, with little to show for it. The country ranks near the bottom of the United Nation's Human Development Index and near the bottom of Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer. And while international aid groups and non-governmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps provide important humanitarian assistance and medical care, they also inadvertently absolve African political leaders from developing medical and public health infrastructures."
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What Africa Really Needs To Fight Ebola

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The rich white woman is telling you what you need!

    Did you ever stop to think, dear, that the ones providing financial aid (the doctors are mostly sweet and a little naive, though some are involved in weird deals where they end up getting paid handsomely) are complicit in the corruption? They know where the money is going, but it's certianly not coming out of their pocket ;-).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So you are stating they do not need to address their massive corruption problem?

      Most of that area is "red" on the world corruption index: http://www.transparency.org/cp... [transparency.org]

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      Also very naive. Botswana is often said to be the least corrupt country in Africa. They have made big advances in education and the economy,
      but despite the newfound wealth it has utterly failed to control HIV and has one of the highest AIDS rates in Africa. Education has not improved behaviour.

      Maybe we should just accept sub-Saharan Africa for what it is, and stop trying (and failing) to turn their culture into ours?

      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        it has utterly failed to control HIV and has one of the highest AIDS rates in Africa.

        Because level of corruption and/or education are the only factors in HIV spread. There have been dumber, more corrupt societies in the past which haven't had a problem with HIV infections because there was no HIV to spread.

  • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @03:13PM (#48840397)

    Right. It has always been a tradition for the top tribal leader to line his and his family's pockets.

  • The RIver of Myths (Score:5, Informative)

    by Corporate T00l ( 244210 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @03:20PM (#48840431) Journal

    Anti-corruption efforts are certainly important, especially in improving the economic conditions in a country. But focusing too strongly on just a single issue makes the problem seem unsolvable.

    It is not.

    World metrics have been improving steadily, some countries and regions faster than others, but systemic improvements have been dramatic.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYpX4l2UeZg [youtube.com]

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @04:52PM (#48840865)
      Unfortunately, you and the video are focusing on the wrong metric. Things like child mortality, starvation, access to clean water, housing, etc. can all be artificially skewed by foreign aid.

      The one true metric that matters is productivity per person. If each person (on average) is producing barely enough economic output to feed himself, then the country is a 3rd world developing country. Most European nations were in this state in the Middle Ages, where people had to work in the fields all day to barely keep themselves fed. And a single bad season or plague sidelining workers meant mass starvation.

      If an average person is producing enough to easily feed himself and still have plenty left over to fritter away on extravagances like going to the movies, a high-end GPU for the latest Call of Duty, and the latest iPhone, then the country is a developed nation.

      Corruption [wikipedia.org] correlates fairly strongly with productivity per person [wikipedia.org]. The more corrupt you are, the lower your GDP per capita. It's particularly revealing when you look at countries like South Korea, which by all accounts is a modernized country, yet its worker productivity has stalled at about 20%-30% lower than those of Europe and North America. Then you look at the level of corruption and it makes sense. Money which should be going from productive person to productive person thus increasing productivity even more, is instead being diverted into the pockets of corrupt non-productive people. Resulting in a lower amount of productivity per capita even though all the modern infrastructure for a thriving economy is there.

      Giving people in developing countries medical care, food, clean water, and modern conveniences is pointless if they're going to continue to be dependent on foreign charity for those things in perpetuity. The primary goal of foreign assistance should always be domestic economic development (secondary being education to help staff those new domestic jobs being developed). Once these people have been set up with a functional economy where they can generate the maximum amount of productive work they're capable of, they will build their own hospitals and train their own doctors, plant their own farms, drill for or desalinate their own water, and build their own utilities and communications infrastructure.

      Foreign aid like medical care, food, clean water may make the donor feel better, but its net effect doesn't really help the people in the country. And in some cases it even hurts (e.g. food donated as foreign aid depresses food prices and kills the economic viability of local farms). It should be reserved for times of calamity and bad luck, e.g. when a country which was just barely getting by gets hit by a natural disaster and crosses the threshold into regressing.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @06:05PM (#48841367) Homepage

        Humanity is bound to two types of evolution individual and social evolution. Social evolution allows all those individuals to achieve far more as a group than they could ever achieve individually. So what really does happen when you attempt to force social evolution upon people who have not adapted to it. Individually a process of selection must occur that allows adaptation to social evolution a conjoined process. So the harshest question of all must be asked, should regions be required to solve some of the problems they create themselves in order to allow effective social evolution.

        Taking a more detached perspective, how would say aliens view aiding humanity as it resolves the problems that humanity itself creates. Would they isolate them and allow them to resolve those issue and only prevent it from spreading. So what is the correct answer, do nothing or just provide the knowledge and let them do it and isolate them until they do (succeed or fail) or attempt to do it for them and force solutions on them (treat whole societies like children).

        Attempting to force solutions upon societies that have not adapted to them often creates nothing but conflict. Are we helping or just foolishly fuelling conflict and war. Is foreign aid just something to ease the conscious of the public as we steal the resources off the people we are pretending to aid? Isolationism, who do we isolate ourselves or those regions that fail to develop? Should we force development? Should we allow, wild zones where people can remain 'wild' but are isolated from civilised zones? How much does help end up crippling development rather than supporting it.

        As countries, do we only help because those regions have something we want (suspiciously, it is starting to look very much like that and no amount of PR=B$ will keep it hidden) ?

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Unfortunately, you and the video are focusing on the wrong metric. Things like child mortality, starvation, access to clean water, housing, etc. can all be artificially skewed by foreign aid. The one true metric that matters is productivity per person.

        Depends on your perspective. In my country about 2% of the population is employed in agriculture. While we do need productive land, fertilizer, machinery and so on I'm pretty sure we could do better with 3%. So does anyone need to starve? I fail to see the big principal and moral difference between propping up a disabled person at home and a foreigner who for some reason also can't support himself.

        Giving people in developing countries medical care, food, clean water, and modern conveniences is pointless if they're going to continue to be dependent on foreign charity for those things in perpetuity. The primary goal of foreign assistance should always be domestic economic development

        Well, we also know that people who do get the "modern conveniences" are also more likely to pop out 1-3 childre

      • If each person (on average) is producing barely enough economic output to feed himself, then the country is a 3rd world developing country.

        That probably puts large parts of the UK in the 3rd world category.

  • At this point... I would like to introduce the concept of "corruption vacuum", which I think is equal in metrics to the idea of "power vacuum".

  • ...I expected to see a blather... um, blog post by Bennett Haselton.

    (I didn't RTFA, but it sounds as if this article *might* have been written by someone who did some actual research.)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, if all the Africans that have left since the end of colonialism had stayed, maybe they could have built better governments. But they left those who didn't have the education or didn't or didn't have the connections to get stuff done, or were so beaten down they didn't have the will back in the quagmire while they went and pulled themselves up and out. Had those good people stayed and banded together to make a better world, who know what would have happened. Those good men did nothing (except leave)
    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Do prisons become better places to live by forcing people to live there? No.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Suppose someone there tries to start a medical supply business.
    Then along comes a foreign government dumping billions in supplies there and wipes them out.
    There are times when foreign aid is required. However, when it becomes the norm,
    then it's impossible to build any sort of infrastructure.

  • The developed world has norms, rules, traditions, institutions, stuff like that to control corruption. Many African and Middle Eastern countries lack these. And that includes know-how on how to control corruption.

    Methods to increase transparency and control corruption are very well known. Singapore and Hong Kong started out dirt-poor with no resources and no money, but their leaders were wise enough to put the right systems into place from the outset. Hong Kong's ICAC are world-class at preventing and deali

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... African countries need a consistent application of the rule of law?

  • Throwing words around like "anti-corruption" that begs the question of what "uncorrupted" political regime the author is writing from. I sure would be interested to read about this land of unicorns and rainbows. Look, the world is been built on capitalism and manufacturing. 1st world countries needs 3rd world countries. This patterns works. It's not pretty, but it works. Show me an uncorrupted political system and I'll point you to the next Star Trek convention.
    • Re:Wrong metaphor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @04:38PM (#48840783) Homepage

      There is corruption of one sort or another everywhere. Most 'functional' countries manage to keep it down to a level where the rest of society functions to some level. In the US, people are routinely tossed into courts over bribery and corruption issues. The Navy is running a big anticorruption scandal at the moment. Of course, some (or perhaps most) of the perpetrators get away - but enough get caught to keep the system functioning.

      In a number of African and Middle Eastern countries and likely including Russia at this point, the rule of law is so feeble an distant that overt corruption, nepotism and just outright theft are the rules of the game.

      Don't knock the judicial system too hard. It serves as a strong barrier to this sort of thing.

  • A legal system (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Teun ( 17872 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @04:29PM (#48840737) Homepage
    Yes Africa is rife with corruption.

    Some see it as a natural thing, that's really sad because now they won't oppose it.
    Others see it as the result of colonialism but we're 20-50 years on and things only got worse...

    Talking about Ebola, two months ago I arrived in Angola and they had temperature screening for those getting off the plane.
    Rather sad was this was only done for foreigners, those with an Angolan passport are apparently immune :(.
    Africa is rife with corruption and corruption breeds what we'd otherwise see as stupidity but for individuals it's really just a way of survival.

    The only effective way to fight corruption is to have a solid legal system and from European experience we learn that needs to be in place for several generations before it becomes effective.
    Since the British occupation of South Africa it had a reasonable judiciary but now Zuma's ANC has taken over it is left to die, laws are watered down and officials installed based on their race and political affiliation.

    It is a sad conclusion but even in the best scenario Africa will be corrupt for at least the next century.

  • If people in other countries have and put up with corrupt governments, and go out and kill and eat "bush meat" and get Ebola, that's too bad but we have our own corrupt politicians here, I don't see how we can take on correcting theirs when we can even correct ours. And we have the flu virus in this country, and even with our first world hospitals and our Obama-care the flu is killing more people in America than Ebola is killing in the entire world. Yet I don't see Obama sending the Army to help out when on
    • by tgeller ( 10260 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @05:55PM (#48841277) Homepage
      "that's too bad but we have our own corrupt politicians here"

      True, but your scale is off by 100x.

      How much extra did you have to pay the last time you renewed your driver's license? The last time you took a bus? How much kickback do you pay your boss every week to keep your job? When a loved one is in the hospital, how much does the nurse demand directly from you to make sure they get fed?

      Be real here.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by nbauman ( 624611 )

        How much extra did you have to pay the last time you renewed your driver's license? The last time you took a bus? How much kickback do you pay your boss every week to keep your job? When a loved one is in the hospital, how much does the nurse demand directly from you to make sure they get fed?

        The last time I bought health insurance, I paid about twice as much as the same insurance would cost in Canada or the UK.

        That's because when we have "health care reform," like (most recently) Obamacare, the "stakeholders," who contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the campaign contributions of both candidates, figuratively sat down at a table in a smoke-filled room and worked out a system that would give each of them a piece of the action, each of which brought up the cost.

        So the insurance industry

      • You are talking about the low level corruption, that certainly isn't very common in the more developed countries (except for southern Europe, obviously). The high level corruption thrives everywhere, though.

      • You are forgetting something very conveniently, namely taxes. Maybe your reply is that majority of people do not actually pay taxes, the very poor do not and the very rich also find ways to avoid as much as possible on the personal level. However all taxes are paid by the employers, all taxes come from business revenues. People don't recognise this reality as such, but without businesses there can be no wealth generated (more than necessary for a primitive barely self sustaining society of subsistence fa

  • by lippydude ( 3635849 ) on Saturday January 17, 2015 @04:51PM (#48840859)
    What Africa really needs to fight Ebola is to stop traditional burial practices, such as allowing traditional healers to wash the dead body and then travel back to their home village and spread the contagion. Where there is one case, quarantine the village and cremate the deceased. To quote: "Ebola victims are most infectious right after death—which means that West African burial practices [thedailybeast.com], where families touch the bodies, are spreading the disease like wildfire." In Guinea, 60% of all cases had been linked to traditional burial practices [who.int]."
  • It was obligatory.

  • Liberia has a 42% literacy rate, no jobs and extreme poverty. So can corruption really be fought in these conditions? I'm just thinking education is bigger priority.
    • by nbauman ( 624611 )

      Liberia has a 42% literacy rate, no jobs and extreme poverty. So can corruption really be fought in these conditions? I'm just thinking education is bigger priority.

      If you think literacy and education is the key question, you should have been a Communist. Every Communist country in the world raised their literacy rate to close to 100%.

      The Soviets even set up a pretty good western-style education system (along with other social services and infrastructure) in Afghanistan. They taught girls and boys together, by male and female teachers, in complete equality of the sexes. They used Soviet textbooks, which (certainly in science and math) were among the best in the world.

      O

  • "The problem the press is occupied with today will never be cured if my problem [fair economics] isn't resolved" is the takeaway.

    I'm a bit perplexed by the Summary. Certainly the problem (corruption) is indeed really messing with African fair economies, and certainly economic growth supports hospitals and health care, etc. Correlation, check.

    But Ebola outbreaks have happened before, it usually subsides, and - not to minimize how horrible an urban outbreak would be - the western press's obsession with 8,483 deaths in 12 months is what it is. Trying to attract the press attention to YOUR cause by "baiting the hook with today's headline" is an old trick. Will Ebola ever be cured if Global Warming / Boka Haram / Pollution / US Agricultural Subsidies / [Insert something} continues? Discuss!

    The rest of the article is fine. But I trade with Africa and China and Latin America, and can tell you... recovery from corruption can be amazingly fast when the corruption's stopped. What Deng Tsao Ping demonstrated in Guandong Province is that if Government interference stops, just for a few years, economies erupt like fireworks. Whatever flus or colds or dysentary epidemics were going on in Guangdong were replaced by pollution, and that's part of development.

  • What they REALLY need to do to prevent ebola outbreaks in the first place is to get over their illogical social moires and accept cremation as being an acceptable alternative to burial for ebola victims.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/... [smithsonianmag.com]

  • there was a book about that:
    The Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business ~~~ by Graham Hancock --- Jan 10, 1994

    it is the same reason there's always trouble in Israel/Gaza: there are people getting paid to "deal with the problem" (some of them quite wealthy). If the problem goes away, these people would stop getting paid.... So certain people in key positions make sure that the problem never goes away.

    Sometimes, ignorance is the answer.
  • Cmon mods, let's get the title right at least. Is that supposed to be Why Africa needs to fight ebola? Or is there some missing punctuation? "What Africa really needs to fight - Ebola". Or maybe this was submitted by Norm Macdonald, in which case it might be "What, Africa really needs to fight Ebola?"
  • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @05:40AM (#48843687)

    It's nice to see that we haven't lost our ability to be condescending without wasting effort on getting informed. Let me suggest some other headers along the same, stupid lines:

    "What America really needs to curb gun-related crime"
    "What Europe really needs to save the economy" ...

    Well, you get the gist, I'm sure. We all have hard-to-solve problems, and none of us welcomes this sort of non-advice that sounds like 'why don't they just get their act together'. Why don't the Americans and Europeans 'just get their act together'? Probably because the problems are more complex than 'just something ...', and part of that complexity is that we in the West are tying well-meaning aid to greedy businesses who have no intention of giving these countries a fair deal. Why would a Western company actually help set up competition against themselves in an African country? Companies are businesses, not idealists.

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