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Africans' fears of Ebola treatment have complex origins, says Emory expert

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Megan McRainey

West Africans are rejecting medical treatment for Ebola for complex cultural, political and historical reasons, according to Pamela Scully, a native of South Africa, and Professor Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies and African Studies at Emory University.

Scully is a seasoned media commentator. She is completing a short biography of Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and has published chapters and articles on humanitarian interventions, transitional justice and sexual violence, with a focus on Liberia.

Ebola has taken hold in countries recovering from civil war, where citizens have little confidence that the resources exist to make things better. This makes containment and treatment of the disease more difficult, according to Professor Scully. “In Liberia, poverty, inequality and unequal development have contributed to communities’ negative reactions to efforts to stem Ebola.”

There's also growing mistrust in Liberia of foreign experts and leaders, she says. These factors compound other logical reasons for people to flee – the lack of a cure and the possibility that healthcare workers themselves are carriers of the disease as reports of medical workers' deaths spread, according to Scully.

Pamela Scully
Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and African Studies

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