Governing Ebola: between global health and medical humanitarianism
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Medical humanitarianism and global health are two distinct but co-dependent spheres of global health security. Their actors differ in their units of analysis, understanding of neutrality, and organizational capacities. While health underpins the normative principles of humanitarian action, humanitarian ideas, and notably medical humanitarian organizations, are absent from global health security planning. This article develops the work of Lakoff [‘Two regimes of global health’, Humanity, 1(1), 59–79 (2010)], distinguishing between these two governance spheres and how this had stark consequences in the 2014/15 Ebola outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone, framed as a problem of global health but which rapidly became a humanitarian crisis. Such a frame excluded medical humanitarian organizations from the initial global strategy and resulted in the creation of a new organization (UMMEER – United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response) and the involvement of militaries to bridge the health-humanitarian divide. Reconciling the distinct but co-dependent relationship between medical humanitarianism and global health is fundamental to effective delivery of global health security.