Sunday, October 05, 2014

"A scene out of Dante" - Washington Post Ebola Must Read Story

Ebola news comes in bits and pieces and until it got to Dallas seemed far away.  The Washington Post has a good overview of what has happened and is happening.  This is a major issue of concern to everyone.  This is a good way to get up to speed. 
Out of control: How the world’s health organizations failed to stop the Ebola disaster 
The LA Times also has a long story, but I think the Washington Post did a better job. [Note:  These stories, like all stories, need to be taken with a grain of salt, but for now, they both try to pull together what's been going on and who the key players are.  We can judge how good these reports were in a year or two, maybe.]

Image from Dore's illustrations of Dante's Inferno from Sexual Fables*

While people tend to think of this as a health story, I think of it as an international public administration story.  It involves, directly, the governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, the United States, and other countries around Africa and the world.  It involves the United Nations, the World Health Organization, Doctors Without Borders, Samaritans' Purse, the Centers for Disease Control, the US military.

It involves religion and science. Courage and fear.

It involves cultural beliefs about how to bury the dead.  The lack of trust in the aftermath of civil war and the arms trade.  The lack of infrastructure - roads, health care systems, sanitation systems, water systems.  It involves human emotions.

And most important, it involves human beings facing death from an invisible killer.

It requires people to have the understanding of all these complicated factors and the power to implement action that will curb this disease with the least loss of life, using the fewest possible resources, so that other problems can also be addressed.  

Trying to understand how we could send men to the moon, but couldn't keep people on earth healthy was a key reason I got into the field of public administration.  I learned there are no set answers, but a lot of processes and information, that allow us to adapt to the changing challenges public administrators face daily. 

*I have a copy of The Inferno with Dore's illustrations, but it's at home in Anchorage and I'm in LA, so I have to borrow this picture, at least for now.    
Dante's Inferno, widely hailed as one of the great classics of Western literature, details Dante's journey through the nine circles of Hell. The voyage begins during Easter week in the year 1300, the descent through Hell starting on Good Friday

1 comment:

  1. you're right about public administration. today's NYTimes has a front-page story about a container full of medical supplies (masks, gowns, etc) sent from the US to Sierra Leone, where it has been sitting on a dock since August 6. the port authority won't release the container to the hospitals who so desperately need the stuff. (the shipment was organized by a guy in the OTHER political party)

    we like to think that we're so superior to those benighted nations, but I wonder what our various governmental agencies would do if faced with a similar crisis here. in Dallas they waited four days to clean out the apartment of the Ebola guy because no cleaning company had the proper permits to transport hazardous waste. not off to a great start, are we?


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