Bioethics Blogs

Experiencing Ebola: First-Person Perspectives from the Diaspora and Health Care Workers

Among the many unfortunate outcomes of the recent Ebola outbreak is how public reaction played out in the affected communities, both in the countries themselves and also in the western African diaspora in the U.S.

As the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) continued its review of U.S. engagement in the global response to the current Ebola epidemic, it considered the experience of people who were quickly swept up in the tumult.

Oretha Bestman-Yates, who immigrated to the United States from Liberia in 1987 and now serves as president of the Staten Island (New York) Liberian Community Association, said Liberians in this country — even those who had been here for years — suddenly found themselves subject to suspicion and discrimination.

“I was directly hit by the stigmatization,” she said. “I even lost my job because I visited Liberia in July and my son, who was proud to call himself Liberian-American, now does not want to be associated with anything from Liberia. We were targeted by our neighbors…As you boarded a train or ferry people actually stood away from you because of your accent.”

Chernor Bah, Youth Engagement Officer of A World at School and Chair of the Youth Advocacy Group at the Global Education First Initiative, discussed the epidemic from the perspective of communities in western Africa. Bah is a former child refugee from Sierra Leone and has connections through non-profits to all three countries affected by the epidemic.

He said there were unfortunate aspects of the international response that fed fears and paranoia in the affected countries that the Ebola infections were caused by some type of conspiracy.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.