Bachelor of Arts
Department or Program
International Studies Program
This thesis examines community distrust as it has manifested in local responses to the national and international emergency response to the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) tenth Ebola virus disease outbreak in the country's war-torn east; in doing so it seeks to situate acts of "resistance" in locals' lived experiences with the state and international community. Lack of trust in epidemic responses is not a new issue, and was thrown into sharp relief by the Ebola riposte in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia amidst the West Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014-16: affected populations displayed “resistance” toward a medical humanitarian response comprised of international forces that historically enslaved, colonized and exploited them, and domestic state military forces representing extensions of a corrupt and violent government. While lessons were learned from this outbreak as to the importance of engaging with local communities and conditions from the outset of an outbreak response and acknowledging the consequences of long-term neglect of social determinants of health, local distrust has resurfaced and led to considerable barriers to Ebola containment efforts in the emergency medical response in the eastern DRC. Seeking to work against narratives perpetuated by the media which have depicted "resistance" in West Africa and the eastern Congo as signs of the irrationality and dangerous nature of Africans which hamper disease containment efforts, this thesis relies upon primary data collection via interviews with scholars, and practitioners on-the-ground in the DRC or in previous outbreaks, as well as surveys of affected communities to contextualize opposition to the Ebola response. Primary data gleaned from these sources which illuminate the voices of impacted populations, along with secondary research providing historical background of the eastern DRC and theoretical insights, helps reveal the particular conditions of chronic, lived "emergency" in the east: genocide at the hands of the Belgian King Leopold's imperial Congo, subsequent Belgian colonization, neocolonization under the Western-backed dictator Mobutu, 10 years of war leading to the greatest number of deaths sine WWII, and continual resource pillage and extraction by armed groups known to commit routine, murderous attacks against civilians. This thesis explores the disjuncture between an externally imposed notion of “emergency” in the form of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), belonging to the international community’s lexicon of global health security, and a local, lived notion of crisis and insecurity in the eastern provinces. The project includes policy recommendations to better prioritize the voices of communities and their needs in future emergency health responses, and also facilitate the development of conditions in the country and the eastern region which render it less vulnerable to future Ebola outbreaks and in need of external medical aid.
O'Keefe, Samuel, "When Global Health Emergency Meets Chronic Emergency: Parsing Out (Inter)National and Local Optics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Tenth Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak" (2020). Senior Capstone Projects. 1026.
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