This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

You can download an iPhone app for the 13th edition from the App Store (search for Weeks Population).

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How is Ghana Dealing with Ebola?

Thanks to Dr. Pollock for alerting me to a story on ABC News today discussing the situation of Liberians in Ghana--which is separated from Liberia by only one country (Côte d'Ivoire). It turns out that Ghana has a refugee camp in the Central Region, to the west of Accra, that was set up in 1990 by UNHCR to house refugees from the civil wars that ravaged the country between the mid-1980s and the mid-2000s. This camp--Budubaram--is one of three isolation centers in the center to which Liberians who arrive in Ghana are sent until they are able to find their way home.

Hundreds of Liberians are stranded in Ghana, separated from their families because of poverty, fear and logistics. Some are waiting for flights to resume after most airlines cancelled flights to Liberia. Others are having trouble navigating or affording the circuitous route back by bus. Many others feel it's too risky to return home, even if their spouses or children are desperately urging them to.
Ghana, which is still free of Ebola, has become the hub for an intensified international response to the crisis, with the U.N. Mission for Ebola Emergency Response based in Accra. Ghana is one of 14 West African counties seen as being at risk, and authorities have set up at least three Ebola isolation centers across the country in case there is an outbreak.
ABC News interviewed a Liberian Christian pastor named Boley:
Boley believes more than 500 Liberians — often jobless, broke and desperate for good news out of their country — are at the Buduburam camp, an unsanitary maze of tin-roofed shacks, tents and other makeshift structures. Many more are said to be sheltering in other parts of Ghana. When he is not walking about idly, Boley sits huddled among other men who talk quietly over cold drinks. In a crowded market in Buduburam's dusty grounds, women sell fresh vegetables, bottled honey and other goods. The area stinks of rotting garbage.
Boley had flown to Nigeria on Gambia Bird, but after he left that airline stopped flying to Liberia. While in Lagos, Nigeria, people avoided him after learning he was from Liberia, he said. Disinvited from the conference, he took a bus to Ghana, where border officials announced there was a possibly Ebola-infected Liberian in their company. People panicked, he said.
The only way he can return home is by taking another long bus trip through four countries, including Guinea and Sierra Leone. It would cost him at least $350, money he doesn't have. The most direct route, through Ivory Coast, is closed, and French-speaking Ivorian border officials are hostile toward Liberians, he said.
The point, though, is that West African countries are taking Ebola very seriously, and doing everything they can to contain it.


  1. I cant blame these countries for being greatly concerned ... and I'm encouraged if Ghana is making its best efforts to stop Ebola. The little bit of news I have today is that Ebola is still spreading rapidly in Sierra Leone, and moving westwards. That would put it on a path to cross into Guinea fairly soon. I suspect Guinea is rather unprepared to deal with this crisis, compared to Ghana. If the virus spreads in Guinea, then certainly Guinea-Bissau and Gambia will be at risk. Therefore the next place to logically stop the virus would be Senegal.

    I would expect that the reaction of the Senegalese will be much like Ghana ... they will make a major action to keep the virus out of their country, Senegal could possibly succeed, just as (hopefully) Ghana will succeed.

    There is still no word about the Ivory Coast - I wonder what's happening there.

    As you know, fatality figures from Africa are under-reported. Many factors make this inevitable. Africans have very strong feelings about how to bury the dead, and a lot of families are upset by how the bodies of Ebola victims are being eradicated. Hence, the real fatality figures may be 2-3 times what is reported. Quite often families simply bury the dead in their own backyard. That would put the actual casualties at around 10,000 people now (instead of the 5,000 casulaties that are reported). If they confine Ebola to the region from Liberia to Guinea-Bissau, that might limit the total fatalities to 20,000-40,000. Something of that order. As bad as this sounds, we will be lucky if the world gets this amount of containment.

    I cant help feeling a certain sense of personal irony. When I was much younger, and first going to rural Africa, I clutched a copy of "Tropical Medicine" in my hands. I was not a doctor - merely educating myself about disease risks. The pictures of African illnesses were horrific. That encouraged me to take strong precautions to avoid catching anything. Tweny years ago, you would need to go to some "sketchy places" to risk coming down with West Nile Fever or Ebola. But in the intervening time, both of these diseases have made it to the shores of America itself. There is no such thing as an "isolated virus" in this world today. If any illness is contagious amongst humans, sooner or later it will travel across many borders.

    Pete Pollock, Redondo Beach, CA

  2. Your comments on Demographics inspired me to go back and take a look at the 1918 'flu epidemic. It was widely called the Spanish 'Flu at that time. There were some things I did not realize abut that outbreak. That 'flu H1N1 had a mortality rate around 20% ... very serious. Also, that strain of 'flu was particularly fatal to young adults. The virus caused their immune system to over-react, and the strength of the young adults' bodies actually worked against them.

    Interestingly, the authorities back then stuggled with the idea of whether to release all the info on the global 'flu pandemic. They decided NOT TO. So the extent of the global outbreak was not understood widely, while it was occurring. However, the Spanish Government defied the "no talk" agreement and allowed news of their own struggle with the virus. Thus the world came to believe - incorrectly - that the 'flu was exceptionally bad in Spain ... and that it originated from there.

    The current version of Ebola has a mortality rate around 50% in Africa, and roughly 10-20% in the West (where treament is proactive). If this strain of Ebola mutates into something that is much more transmissible between human beings, the mortality rate may go down but the ability to spread widely will be enhanced. So if the "Next Ebola" is very transmissible, and has a mortality around 20%, a similar threat level would exist to the 1918 Influenza outbreak. Hopefully, they will have a vaccine for Ebola before that dire circumstance materializes.

    Pete, Redondo Beach