A staff member of the German Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia in February 2015.
Photo: C. Janke

05.01.2016

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In the debate over Ebola crisis management, there is much mention of “lessons learnt”. But is awareness of the mistakes that have been made really a guarantee that things are going to work out better next time? An analysis of German humanitarian emergency relief in Liberia and the significance of the human factor.

In clinical medicine, the term “crisis” tends to be perceived differently from its colloquial use. Here, it lacks the almost exclusively negative, apocalyptic connotation it bears in everyday language. Instead, the high development potential during a crisis is recognised, and the probability of attaining a new equilibrium as a result is understood both as a risk and an opportunity. Given the 11,299 deaths (status: 08.11.15), the disrupted families, the suffering of the survivors, the many orphans, the compromised health system and the medium- to long-term psychological, economic and political consequences of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which is not over yet, it above all appears to be a disaster the impact of which has still not been fully comprehended and hence a crisis, in the conventional sense of the term, that rumbles on. Why did international support take so long to come, and why was it performed so cumbersomely and hesitantly?

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