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“Paul Farmer brings his considerable intellect, empathy, and expertise to bear in this powerful and deeply researched account of the Ebola outbreak that struck West Africa in 2014. It is hard to imagine a more timely or important book.” —Bill and Melinda Gates
"[The] history is as powerfully conveyed as it is tragic . . . Illuminating . . . Invaluable." —Steven Johnson, The New York Times Book Review
In 2014, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea suffered the worst epidemic of Ebola in history. The brutal virus spread rapidly through a clinical desert where basic health-care facilities were few and far between. Causing severe loss of life and economic disruption, the Ebola crisis was a major tragedy of modern medicine. But why did it happen, and what can we learn from it?
Paul Farmer, the internationally renowned doctor and anthropologist, experienced the Ebola outbreak firsthand—Partners in Health, the organization he founded, was among the international responders. In Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds, he offers the first substantive account of this frightening, fast-moving episode and its implications. In vibrant prose, Farmer tells the harrowing stories of Ebola victims while showing why the medical response was slow and insufficient. Rebutting misleading claims about the origins of Ebola and why it spread so rapidly, he traces West Africa’s chronic health failures back to centuries of exploitation and injustice. Under formal colonial rule, disease containment was a priority but care was not – and the region’s health care woes worsened, with devastating consequences that Farmer traces up to the present.
This thorough and hopeful narrative is a definitive work of reportage, history, and advocacy, and a crucial intervention in public-health discussions around the world.
Farmer shows that the same social forces that give rise to epidemic diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis also sculpt risk for human rights violations. He illustrates the ways that racism and gender inequality in the United States are embodied as disease and death. Yet this book is far from a hopeless inventory of abuse. Farmer’s disturbing examples are linked to a guarded optimism that new medical and social technologies will develop in tandem with a more informed sense of social justice. Otherwise, he concludes, we will be guilty of managing social inequality rather than addressing structural violence. Farmer’s urgent plea to think about human rights in the context of global public health and to consider critical issues of quality and access for the world’s poor should be of fundamental concern to a world characterized by the bizarre proximity of surfeit and suffering.
The case studies presented throughout Reimagining Global Health bring together ethnographic, theoretical, and historical perspectives into a wholly new and exciting investigation of global health. The interdisciplinary approach outlined in this text should prove useful not only in schools of public health, nursing, and medicine, but also in undergraduate and graduate classes in anthropology, sociology, political economy, and history, among others.
Using field work and new scholarship to challenge the accepted methodologies of epidemiology and international health, Farmer points out that most current explanatory strategies, from "cost-effective treatment" to patient "noncompliance," inevitably lead to blaming the victims. In reality, larger forces, global as well as local, determine why some people are sick and others are shielded from risk. Yet this moving autobiography is far from a hopeless inventory of insoluble problems. Farmer writes of what can be done in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, by physicians and medical students determined to treat those in need: whether in their home countries or through medical outreach programs like Doctors without Borders. Infections and Inequalities weds meticulous scholarship in medical anthropology with a passion for solutions—remedies for the plagues of the poor and the social illnesses that have sustained them.
A must-read for graduates, students, and everyone seeking to help bend the arc of history toward justice, To Repair the World:
• Challenges readers to counter failures of imagination that keep billions of people without access to health care, safe drinking water, decent schools, and other basic human rights;
• Champions the power of partnership against global poverty, climate change, and other pressing problems today;
• Overturns common assumptions about health disparities around the globe by considering the large-scale social forces that determine who gets sick and who has access to health care;
• Discusses how hope, solidarity, faith, and hardbitten analysis have animated Farmer’s service to the poor in Haiti, Peru, Rwanda, Russia, and elsewhere;
• Leaves the reader with an uplifting vision: that with creativity, passion, teamwork, and determination, the next generations can make the world a safer and more humane place.
"The book's greatest strength lies in its depiction of the post-quake chaos In the book's more analytical sections the author's diagnosis of the difficulties of reconstruction is sharp." -- Economist
"A gripping, profoundly moving book, an urgent dispatch from the front by one of our finest warriors for social justice." -- Adam Hochschild
"His honest assessment of what the people trying to help Haiti did well -- and where they failed -- is important for anyone who cares about the country or international aid in general." -- Miami Herald
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to Partners In Health.