Infographic: what each country fears the most, other than Ebola

world's biggest fear

Those results are based from the newly released 2014 Pew Global Attitudes project about countries’ greatest fears, given the recent headlines about Ebola, Islamic State, income inequality, or climate change.

Read more about the report in Pew Global Attitudes website.

 greatest danger (dots)

What Nigeria and Senegal (and Cuba) can teach the world about fighting ebola

free from ebola

 

While much of the mainstream media has all the hype about ‘Renee Zellweger’s latest face’ or ‘the desperate fate of Ebola outbreak’, these two African countries, Nigeria and Senegal, silently made a great breakthrough in fighting the disease. These two countries, normally identified as lower-middle-income nations with high percentage of population living in extreme poverty, decrepit public facilities and governments oftentimes beset by inefficiencies and bureaucratic logjams, surprised the whole planet with their rapid response towards the outbreak, unlike their much unfortunate counterparts, countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. Tackling the spread of the virus in both these highly populated countries, each of which boasts 170 million and nearly 30 million, is no easy job, somehow. Nonetheless, with all the efforts made, all parties involved, and health authorities in particular, deserve the accolades for successfully keeping an otherwise apocalyptic maelstrom at bay. This is a great lesson for the world, and especially for other developing nations altogether.

Most importantly, it is not just about advanced technologies; it takes a complete willingness of all parties, especially a political one, to solve this problem. For some conservatives in US who talk about eliminating flights between the country and West Africa to avoid Ebola outbreak, think again.

This is the article from io9 that explains how Nigeria, for this case study, can contain the contagion.

 

Full article:

 

How Nigeria Stopped Ebola “Dead In Its Tracks”

George Dvorsky

Finally, some good news to report on the Ebola front: Nigeria and Senegal are now completely free of the disease. Here’s how they contained the outbreak — and why the world needs to take notice.

Earlier today, the World Health Organization announced that no new case of Ebola has emerged in Nigeria in 42 days. That’s the standard length of time required for declaring the end to an outbreak, since it’s twice the maximum 21-day incubation period for the virus. It’s an incredible achievement — one that should assuage fears and show that Ebola can be contained. Moreover, it’s proof that developing nations, with sufficient support from the international community, are fully capable of dealing with the epidemic.

Thwarting an “Apocalyptic Urban Outbreak”

Things looked bleak back in July when the virus was detected in Lagos, Africa’s largest city. Nigeria, with its 166 million inhabitants, is Africa’s most populous country and its newest economic powerhouse. Lagos boasts a population of 21 million, making it nearly as large as the populations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone combined. With its airport and large population living in often crowded and unsanitary conditions, news of Ebola was met with a palpable sense of dread.

“The last thing anyone in the world wants to hear is the two words, ‘Ebola’ and ‘Lagos’ in the same sentence,” noted Jeffrey Hawkins, the U.S. Consul General in Nigeria, at the time. The juxtaposition of the two conjured images of an “apocalyptic urban outbreak.”

In the end, Nigeria confirmed a total of 19 Ebola cases, of whom seven died and 12 survived. It’s a far cry from the situation in other parts of West Africa — but that’s not an accident. Here’s how Nigeria did it and the “best practices” that should now be employed elsewhere:

Effective Leadership and Public-Health Institutions

The WHO credits Nigeria for its strong leadership and effective coordination of the response:

The most critical factor is leadership and engagement from the head of state and the Minister of Health. Generous allocation of government funds and their quick disbursement helped as well. Partnership with the private sector was yet another asset that brought in substantial resources to help scale up control measures that would eventually stop the Ebola virus dead in its tracks.

The response was greatly aided by the rapid utilization of a national public institution (NCDC) and the prompt establishment of an Emergency Operations Centre, which was supported by the Disease Prevention and Control Cluster within the WHO country office. Nigeria also features a first-rate virology lab affiliated with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. It was staffed and equipped to quickly and reliably diagnose Ebola, ensuring that containment measures could be employed with the shortest possible delay.

Rapid Response to the Initial Case

Nigeria’s first Ebola patient, Patrick Sawyer, was initially thought to have malaria. But once that was ruled out, doctors immediately began treating him as a possible Ebola patient. He was kept in isolation, officials were notified, and a blood sample was rushed to a testing lab. Just three days later, Nigeria’s health ministry set up an Ebola Incident Management Center, which eventually turned into an Emergency Operations Center that co-ordinated the response and decision-making.

Sufficient Access to Resources

As noted, federal and state governments in Nigeria were able to provide ample financial and material resources, including well-trained and experienced national staff. Isolation wards were immediately constructed, as were designated Ebola treatment facilities (though more slowly). Other resources included vehicles and mobile phones equipped with specially adapted apps allowing healthcare workers to engage in real-time reporting as the investigations moved forward. Many of these efforts were supported by social mobilization experts from UNICEF, CDC and Médecins sans Frontières.

High Quality Contact-Tracing

Nigerian health officials, working with assistance from WHO, the US CDC and others, managed to reach 100% of known contacts in Lagos and 99.8% at the second outbreak site in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub. High-quality contact tracing was performed by experienced epidemiologists who expedited the early detection of cases and their rapid movement to isolation wards. And unlike the tragic situation in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, all identified contacts were physically monitored on a daily basis for 21 days. Some contacts tried to escape during the monitoring process, but they were all tracked by special investigation teams and returned to observation to complete the requisite monitoring period of 21 days.

Applying Lessons From Previous Outbreaks

Nigeria has been combating another blight, polio, for quite some time now and with great success. Among their many tactics, health officials use the very latest satellite-based GPS technologies to ensure that no child missed out on polio vaccinations. When Ebola first appeared in July, they immediately repurposed these technologies and infrastructure to conduct Ebola case-finding, contact-tracing, and daily mapping of links between identified chains of transmission. Nigerian health officials also adapted the learnings from their efforts to eradicate guinea-worm disease.

A Rigorous Public Education Campaign

Communication with the public was also key. Nigerian health and government officials rallied communities to support containment measures. This involved house-to-house information campaigns — spoken in local dialects — that explained the level of risk, effective personal measures, and the actions being taken for control. All the while, Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, reassured his population on nationally televised newscasts. Traditional and religious community leaders were engaged early on and asked to play a role in sensitizing the public.Finally, the full range of media opportunities were exploited, including social media and televised facts about the disease delivered by Nigerian celebrities.

Screening At Borders — And A Refusal To Stop Air Travel

Instead of panicking and banning air travel, Nigerian health officials screened all arriving and departing travelers by air and by sea in Lagos and Rivers State. The average number of travelers screened each day reached a peak of more than 16,000.

Moving Forward With Vigilance

Clearly, this story isn’t over yet. Vigilance remains high and Nigeria’s surveillance systems remains on a high level of alert. It’s quite possible that, given the country’s success, people from neighboring countries may try to (illicitly) enter in.

As a final note, and as noted by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan: “If a country like Nigeria, hampered by serious security problems, can do this – that is, make significant progress towards interrupting polio transmission, eradicate guinea-worm disease and contain Ebola, all at the same time – any country in the world experiencing an imported case can hold onward transmission to just a handful of cases.”

 

Additional articles:

1. An article from Los Angeles Times

2. One of Cuba’s most reliable sources to conduct its global diplomatic finesse – doctors. Learn how Cuba is prepping up its global image by dispatching more than 160 doctors across West Africa to fight Ebola.

A ghost city, and a horror story

ghost city china

 

 

Just a few days prior, China has officially surpassed United States to become the world’s largest economy based on purchasing power parity (PPP) level. While the country still has a long way to go to completely replace US as the planet’s future superpower, China has started to face numerous problems that are increasingly deteriorating, all of which are the decades-old by-products of its breakneck economic growth. One of them is the existence of ‘ghost cities’ – gigantic, splurge urban areas with dozens, even hundreds, of building blocks which are apparently uninhabited and even unfinished – and Kangbashi (pictured above) is the poster child for this phenomenon. Supposedly built to accommodate 1 million people, the city has now no more than 20,000 people living in this territory. Something must have definitely gone wrong with the way these cities are built.

Konrad Kaestner creates a short, 15-minute film titled ‘Cathedrals’ about this ghost city. Using the sceneries he records throughout his journey in Kangbashi, he creates the entire sceneries, using a poetic, and oftentimes Edgar Allan Poe-style narration to depict the whole pictures, which he recreates into a Kafkaesque realm of existence (and sometimes reimagining the enactments from Silent Hill). Watch his short in Aeon, and listen to his narrative very seriously.

Looking at death the other way around

when i die

When Philip Gould was diagnosed with cancer and had only 6 weeks to live, he decided not to fight the disease back. He was, instead, doing something what much of the public would term as ‘surrendering oneself to ultimate fate’, or ‘giving up’. Gould, nonetheless, offered an interesting perspective about it. He would rather call death as ‘life’s ultimately most extraordinary journey’, a journey to somewhere unknown, unbeknownst by human understanding.

In this 9-minute video recorded in 2011, Gould spun the yarn about his last days before dying, and how this experience completely alters his perspective about life, and attempts to make his last stage in life ‘as exciting and enjoyable as possible’. Watch the full video in Aeon.

“Fieldwork” North Korea: an observation

north korea

 

A direct, firsthand observation by Emma Campbell, a Korean expert based in Australian National University (ANU), of daily life in the world’s most secluded country. Read her research paper in The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

 

Excerpt:

 

The Chinese visitors are easy to tell apart from the general North Korean population. Not only is the Korean Workers’ Party badge missing from their jackets, but they are generally better dressed and bigger. The relative wealth of the Chinese is apparent not least because of their spending in places such as markets and casinos. The interaction with these richer neighbours must also reinforce the other imagery and experiences that remind North Koreans in their daily life of the relative wealth of China. On two occasions I encountered North Koreans watching Chinese DVDs, including one being played on a television set visible to the general public coming in and out of a hair salon. This DVD was an episode from a detective series, set in a major Chinese city, and showing the full cosmopolitanism and modernity of contemporary China with its skyscrapers, traffic, sophisticated restaurants and shops.

Of course, interactions with Chinese tourists constitute part of daily life for North Koreans who live in the key tourist cities and regions. Given the apparent efforts to grow tourism from China to North Korea, such interactions are likely to increase. Entering northeast Korea using the Chinese-constructed road from the Korean border post of Wŏnjŏng and moving onwards to other cities and towns in the Northeast region there is a visible construction boom with many tourist infrastructure projects underway. These included a spa facility in Kyŏngsŏng and a resort hotel near the town of T’umŏn. In addition, hotel construction was visible in the Ch’ilbo mountain region with plans displayed for ski resorts and other tourist facilities across this spectacular national park. These tourist facilities were all said to be aimed at the growing Chinese market20. Chinese tourists dominate North Koreas nascent tourism sector – it is estimated that in 2012 around 10,000 Chinese tourists travelled to North Korea compared to only 4,000 Western visitors21.

China’s next target in the South China Sea

south china sea

 

As China’s geopolitical stance becomes increasingly assertive, the soon-to-be superpower is now emboldening its claim in several places ‘historically assumed’ to be belonging to them. One major point of contention among them is the dispute in South China Sea. As it is disputed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, and numerous diplomatic talks have repeatedly stalled, this issue is becoming more complicating than ever.

Right now, with the latest nine-dash map released by Chinese government, there’s one country that is increasingly possibly involved in this dispute as well. And that’s Indonesia.

Victor Robert Lee, a geopolitical expert and also a novelist, analyzes this in Medium. Read the full article by clicking the link.

 

Excerpt:

 

The Natuna archipelago has been the subject of an Indonesia-China tug-of-war before. Until the 1970s the majority of Natuna residents were ethnic Chinese. Deadly anti-Chinese riots plagued Indonesia in the 1960s, early 1980s, and again in 1998, leading to a decline of the ethnic Chinese population on Natuna from an estimated 5,000–6,000 to somewhere over 1,000 currently. Many ethnic Chinese in the broader region believe to this day that a secret meeting (never publicly confirmed) was held between Deng Xiaoping (China’s premier from 1978 to 1992) and Natuna islanders of Chinese origin who asked that Deng either back their bid for independence from Indonesia, or bring their island under Chinese suzerainty.

Neither happened, and as part of a nation-wide transmigration initiative, the Indonesian government in the 1980s started to relocate ethnically Malay Indonesians to Natuna, for the stated reasons of importing skills and relieving population pressures on the over-crowded main island of Java, and, as perceived by local Chinese Indonesians, for the unstated reason of swamping the ethnic Chinese population with “real Indonesians.” That is, people of Malay ethnicity, who now number approximately 80,000 in the Natuna Islands group.

Courage and Hope – an essay by Malala Yousafzai

malala and kailash

 

This essay was published in Medium shortly after the announcement. Feel free to click it, or just read her work below.

 

Courage and Hope

What the Nobel Peace Prize means to me.

Today, I was honored to learn I have been selected to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

I spoke to co-recipient Kailash Satyarthi by phone. We agreed to continue the struggle for children’s rights together and to work to heal divides between my home of Pakistan and his of India.

I am proud I am the first young person and first Pakistani to win this prize. It is an honour I share with Kailash Satyarthi — a hero in the fight for children globally. More than ever, our world needs more heroes like Kailash. His example makes me brave.

I believe the Nobel committee didn’t give this award to me. I believe they have done this because they believe education is the best weapon through which we can fight poverty, ignorance and terrorism.
I believe they did this because they don’t believe in just one girl, but in all the girls whose voices need to be heard, who are under the darkness of conflict or poverty. This award is for my powerful sisters who have not been listened to for far too long.

And I raise their voices, I stand together with them.

I believe they did this because they believe we are #StrongerThan any challenge. We are #StrongerThan fear. This award is courage and hope for me and all those who fight for education.

Walking to school with my father.

When I found out that I won today, I was in school, studying Chemistry. I told my teacher I needed to finish my school assignment. Education is my top priority. I was learning with my friends, where I believe every child should be. But 57 million of them are still out school. We still have a lot to do.

The road to education, peace and equality is very long. But I know millions of children are walking beside me. If we go together, we will achieve our goals and we will complete our journey. We have to walk together.

I am honoured to walk this road with Kailash. I am honoured to walk it with you.

I invite you to join our movement to break the cycle of poverty and empower girls through education at www.malala.org

Stay updated on all Nobel Peace Prize news and watch Malala’s full speech here.

Originally published at community.malala.org.