From Ferguson to Freetown, Black Lives Don’t Matter

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Global Health Core
Hospitalists striving for Global Health Equity. We are committed to changing the paradigm of how American medicine engages in #GlobalHealth
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By Drs. Sriram Shamasunder & Phuoc LeDecember 2014“We must name them and know their stories. They must not remain anonymous.” The bodies of Michael Brown and an unknown Ebola victim in Sierra Leone covered in sheets. Photos courtesy of Tiffany Mitchell and David Gilkey/NPR, respectively.A year ago this month marks the first case of Ebola in rural Guinea. Emile Ouamouno, a two-year old boy born into a poor farming village, contracted and died from the virus. Within weeks, over a dozen others in his community had died anonymously. Few in the general public would hear about the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa until a full 6 months later, and as we write this the wildfire rages on with minimal containment.In the heat of March in Liberia we started to hear from our colleagues the murmurings of suffering spreading throughout the country. At that time, our student, a physician working in the most remote villages of the country, wrote an essay to sound an alarm to the world before Ebola hitched its way into Monrovia. Her opinion piece, “Ebola: the Canary in the Coal Mine,” was uniformly rejected from all major news outlets. As doctors who have practiced all over the developing world we feel that if Ebola had been identified in Brussels or Berlin the neglect which epitomized the early outbreak would not have been all-engulfing and the subsequent fear would not have been all encompassing.From Ferguson to Freetown being isolated, poor and black is to be feared, sometimes despised and often relegated as irrelevant by the outside world. The common thread linking Ferguson and Ebola is the systematic devaluation of black lives. This is not new. In the United States, lynchings of black men and women occurred every few days from 1882 until 1968. Before the end of the Civil War, blacks were considered 3/5 of a person. Today, despite a healthier population, black lives that matter equally in the United States remains elusive. As physicians we encounter this day to day. For example, Black women are about 60 percent more likely than white women to deliver babies early, and black infants are about 230 percent more likely than white infants to die before their first birthdays1. By nearly every health measure, black outcomes fare worse than everyone else. The difference is even more jarring if we compare blacks to non-blacks in developing countries. The HIV rates in Washington D.C for example is higher than several countries in Africa.

Read more at: From Ferguson to Freetown, Black Lives Don’t Matter. | Global Health Core.