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Letter to the New York Times: The Ebola Epidemic in West Africa

Written by Meredeth Turshen

Professor Turshen is a Professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Her research interests include international health, particularly African women's health, and she specializes in public health policy. A second interest is in the impact of war on women. Meredeth Turshen is the author of  "Privatizing Health Services in Africa" Rutgers University Press, 1999.

29 August 2014
Submitted to the New York Times

To the Editor:

This Ebola epidemic follows the route of the second Liberian war—from Guinea into Liberia into Sierra Leone. The NYT article (“As Ebola Grips Liberia’s Capital, a Quarantine Sows Social Chaos”, 28 August 2014) mentions the war, but not that it destroyed whatever network of rudimentary government health services existed in the 1980s.

The Times article does not mention that health networks were never rebuilt; that the diamond industry, which profited from the wars, was never taxed for funds to rebuild health and education services; that the armaments industry got away with murderous profits and contributed nothing to rebuilding these nations. The Times article does not discuss the opportunism of the private sector, including NGOs and the churches, to use every crisis (the wars, AIDS, Ebola) to undermine government welfare programs and set up private health services in their stead.

The private initiatives underway now are the least efficient ways to procure supplies, the most profitable to pharmaceutical and medical supply companies, and the surest way to guarantee that nothing will have changed after the epidemic recedes. The supplies people are sending from the US are purchased at retail prices instead of ordering in bulk through international tenders for lowest bids. Many of these supplies are for single use and will be discarded. No permanent trace of the goodwill efforts will remain.

Since the 1980s, WTO and World Bank policies of globalizing neoliberalism have destroyed nascent drug industries in African countries. Of 46 sub-Saharan countries, 37 have “pharmaceutical industries,” that is, 34 have secondary level production (formulation of pills using imported pharmaceutical ingredients), and 25 have the ability to repackage imports. Only South Africa has limited primary production. Nine countries have no production capacity. These troubling facts should be part of the national conversation on how to strengthen basic health care in Africa.

Meredeth Turshen, D.Phil.
E.J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy
Rutgers University
33 Livingston Avenue, Suite 500
New Brunswick, NJ 08901 USA
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Watch Rachel Boynton's "Big Men" on PBS

Filmmaker Statement

Republished from


The world of international oil deals is not an easy one to enter with a camera. And I knew no one in the oil business — or in Africa — when I began this film. I started with a pen, a notebook, an idea and a plane ticket to Lagos, Nigeria. But I took the attitude that I could get to anyone if I was careful and patient enough. In the end, I spent almost two years traveling back and forth between West Africa and New York, getting all the necessary permissions to shoot before I ever picked up a camera.

Empowered Africa: Creating Our Own Space & Changing the Conversation

Taking place on the eve of President Obama’s African Leaders Summit, the Empowered Africa Dialogue at Howard University’s Blackburn Center from 9:00-5:30 on Monday, August 4 will provide an alternative space where grassroots citizen-activists, scholars, progressive NGOs and community organizers from Africa and the United States will not only critique significant issues related to US-Africa policy, but also discuss alternative strategies and policies from a progressive and proactive perspective.

International Conference on International Criminal Justice, Reconciliation and Peace in Africa: The ICC and Beyond 10th - 12th July, 2014

Happening now in Dakar- Watch the live webstream here

Concept Note



The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) and the Social Science Research Council’s (SSRC) African Peacebuilding Network (APN) with contributions from CDD West Africa and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law are undertaking a joint two-phase program titled International Justice, Reconciliation and Peace in Africa: the ICC and Beyond. This programme is founded on the observation that the ICC has captured the imagination of many on the continent and come to represent for various parties either the epitome of many of the things that are wrong with the international justice system or a key instrument in the prevention gross human rights violations in Africa and the insurance of justice for its victims.

Letter from the 2014 Local Arrangements Committee (LAC)


Dear Members of the African Studies Association:
We are proud to serve as the co-chairs of the Local Arrangements Committee for the upcoming 57th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, to be held in Indianapolis from November 20-23, 2014. Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and Indiana University- Bloomington are pleased to be serving as the local host institutions this year and are joined by Martin, Marion, and Butler Universities in this effort.  The members of the LAC have been working diligently over the past year to help publicize the conference and the call for papers to scholars and practitioners of Africa in coordination with the ASA Secretariat.  We have sought to expand participation by inviting more students to attend and be exposed to scholarship on Africa.  We have also invited politicians, diplomats, members of the broader community, and members of the ecumenical community who have provided support to African countries in a variety of ways through the years. Finally, we have been working assiduously to develop a variety of activities and events to make your visit to Indianapolis an enjoyable and memorable one. We look forward to extending a warm welcome to each and every one of you in November. 

Member Aid For Africa
African Studies Association is a participating member of Aid for Africa, a unique partnership of nonprofit organizations serving families and communities throughout Africa.
African Studies Association
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