Humanitarian Risk Aversion – “What Were They Doing There In The First Place?”

I have resigned myself to the fact that if our situation in Mali ever goes south, many of the people who pat us on the back now, will quickly shift to being critical of the very fact that we chose to live and work in Mali. Be sure to read the very last paragraph of this post.

But I have thought about  this often…… I know that if I ever got sick and died in Mali… needed medical emergency help, or was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda… or something happened to Lynn while there, Most people would probably tort. “What the hell were they doing there anyway?”  Openly implying irresponsibility, stupidity, negligence, or carelessness. They are happy to let you go when things are fine, and pat you on the back.  But if unforeseen things things arise in an “acceptable risk” service to humanity….. their true thoughts surface…. you are the stupid one… should have known the risks… should have known better. I assure you…. We know the risks…. more than you do, we live them every day.  People like this scare me to death…. because I know I’d be left to rot. Assumes that  our own “Personal Peace and Affluence” is more important (Wise) than the work needing to be done for a fellow human where injustice and sickness is running them over. (Andy Rayner)

So yes, I have been having some interesting conversations about “risk” with folks.

There is level of risk in Mali. But it is an acceptable risk, with simple measures put in place.  Recently, I had an acquaintance needing and emergency medical air lifted from Burkina Faso. Also wrote an article about the the Ebola and how the western medicals workers should be treated as heroes, not threats, while people protested bringing them home for care. (You’ve Shaken Hands With Ebola: How Many Degrees of Separation) And the recent post about how Médecins sans Frontières Needles Our Soft Humanitarian Spirit., questioning our aversion to risk…

“While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by the New York Times found that al-Qaida and its direct affiliates have earned at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just in the past year” (Europe secretly pays al-Qaida kidnappers millions in ransom. Rukmini Callimachi, New York Times)

We are a considerable distance from Northern Mali, so the risk of kidnapping is very small right now. However, if we were kidnapped, people would basically make comments along the line of how we are irresponsible dumb asses for being there in the first place. Because for us, “normal” is to avoid all risk. Covering our butt, even if in the process we are refusing to serve some suffering segment of people,  is an acceptable practice..

As Francis Schaeffer summed our western values….  Our highest value is the pursuit of personal peace and affluence.

When I posted my horror over people protesting the retun of Ebloa infect Medical workers from Liberia.. Here are a few quotes from the thread you might find interesting

(Carrie) “To quote a friend: ‘this is the price you pay for good intentions.’ Note: it is my friend who said this, not me. Just trying to shed light on the mindset. He also said , ‘The good of the many out weigh the good of the individual.'”

(Andy) I get the sentiment. I don’t share it is all. But I have thought about  this often…… I know that if I ever got sick and died in Mali… needed medical emergency help, or was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda… or something happened to Lynn while there, Most people would probably tort. “What the hell were they doing there anyway?”  Openly implying irresponsibility, stupidity, negligence, or carelessness. They are happy to let you go when things are fine, and pat you on the back.  But if unforeseen things things arise in an “acceptable risk” service to humanity….. their true thoughts surface…. you are the stupid one… should have known the risks… should have known better. I assure you…. We Know the risks…. more than you do, we live them every day.  People like this scare me to death…. because I know I’d be left to rot. Assumes that  our own “Personal Peace and Affluence” is more important (Wise) than the work needing to be done for a fellow human where injustice and sickness is running them over.

 (Mark) “This is a tough one, unlike any other foreign death (where disease is not involved) they are essentially just bringing the bodies home before they die with a live infection, with potential to infect others, as there is no known cure or treatment. This consideration does not affect just medical workers, but anyone going to an area of conflict or disease to render aid. The question is “are you willing to accept the risks, despite the potential consequences?”

 

My Reply was.

“The answer is yes…. for those who are there….. I think the real question is are those sending us to do the work….. willing to accept the potential consequences of us being there, instead of wringing their hands? If we support them going, we should support them when things go south too. It is not as if any of us are there on our own….. like tourist backpackers on an adventure as if they are some how invincible. We are sent to do a job. Sent to Work so to speak on tackling an issue. Those going must accept the risks (Or they stay home), those sending workers, are accepting the possible consequences along with them. The general population may think cutting them loose is ok…. But the people sending them usually (In my mind SHOULD) have a deep sense of ownership and responsibility to put their life on the line for the workers they send. Depends on your drive, conviction and passion for the endeavor needing to be done, and the relationship to the people involved. The people sending them back home are not saying…. “they shouldn’t have gone”…. They felt it needed to be done, and helped make it possible. This issue does not fall on the whims of a single solitary person…. who ran off to Africa. This is a huge team involved as “Senders” besides the few “Goers”. The question is not “Are they…. AM I willing to take the risks?” The question is ONLY….. “Are WE prepared to take the risks”…. the “We” may or may not include you (generally speaking), but it does include hundreds if not thousands of people who see the value in this service to humanity, despite the risks…. because they have been deemed acceptable risks in each individual circumstance. So there you have it…. a peak into my world….. this sentiment scares the hell out of me, and obviously, I don’t share it…..”

 

The Head nurse speaks out about two Americans returning to her hospital from Liberia with Ebola

“Most importantly, we are caring for these patients because it is the right thing to do. These Americans generously went to Africa on a humanitarian mission to help eradicate a disease that is especially deadly in countries without our health-care infrastructure. They deserve the same selflessness from us. To refuse to care for these professionals would raise enormous questions about the ethical foundation of our profession. They have a right to come home for their care when it can be done effectively and safely ” (I’m the head nurse at Emory. This is why we wanted to bring the Ebola patients to the U.S.)

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