The outrageous death toll of 200 people in a single day in Liberia due to the recent Ebola outbreak is recognition of something that the international community has long known and for which it must assume responsibility. The Republic of Liberia, like other states in West Africa, has been struggling to recover from the devastating effects of successive civil wars and the indirect consequences of conflict. As the Ebola crisis demonstrates, even in peace, the legacy of infrastructure and institutional destruction can be fatal. As Liberian Minister of National Defense Brownie Samukai put it: “Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence. The deadly Ebola virus has caused a disruption of the normal functioning of our State.”

My research jointly with a team from the Harvard School of Public Health establishes that after periods of armed conflict, post-conflict societies undergo five major phenomena affecting the levels of public health and development: (1) population growth; (2) rapid urbanization and population displacement; (3) severe levels of poverty; (4) weakness and/or lack of basic infrastructure; and (5) lack of qualified professionals. In Liberia today, each of these forces is at work. To understand the Ebola crisis, we need to understand the legacy of war and its lasting impacts. [Read more] – Michael’s Blog