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Security, Public Health Objectives Should Remain Separate

The Guardian: Ebola, polio, HIV: it’s dangerous to mix health care and foreign policy
Sophie Harman, senior lecturer in international politics at Queen Mary University of London

“There are reasons to be fearful of the Ebola crisis gripping parts of West Africa: death, the risk of contagion, overburdened health infrastructure, and concern as neighboring countries worry about what the WHO now admits is an international health emergency. These difficulties are exacerbated by the population’s fear not just of the virus itself, but also of the health workers there to help. While this fear is primarily related to contagion, there are other, more deeply rooted factors at play. Mistrust of outsiders, particularly western health workers, is bound up in the history of Africa and colonial medicine. … The ability of western governments and agencies to act as emergency providers of health care, and as honest brokers, will be increasingly reduced unless we agree that the provision of health care should be sacrosanct and protected from motives best realized by other means. … We are drifting towards a dangerous convergence of health and security policy, one that makes populations less secure and crisis management immeasurably more difficult” (8/14).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.