Pacific Standard is partnering with the crowdfunding journalism site Beacon to support Sophia Newman and her reporting on Ebola and the developing food crisis in West Africa. Pledge your support in the next 24 hours and Pacific Standard will match your donation.
It’s no secret that a lot of reporting on Ebola has been less than responsible. When news outlets are fighting tooth-and-nail for each reader, viewer, or click, sensationalism works. Meanwhile, the more subtle, complex, and important stories surrounding the Ebola crisis are going untold.
Sophia Newman wants to change this. While overblown coverage has stoked an irrational fear of bowling alleys in some New Yorkers, villagers in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire are directly in the line of fire. Even before Ebola crosses their borders, they could be looking at a larger economic catastrophe.
“A month ago, I noticed there was a lot of attention to ... how Ebola would impact chocolate prices,” Newman tells Pacific Standard. “We’ve got news stories on how Nestlé is doing and how it’s going to impact Halloween—and haven’t heard a lot else.”
Newman, a global health researcher and journalist who lived in rural Ghana in 2007 and 2010, knew that this disruption to agriculture had far scarier implications. Last month, a United Nations official confirmed: “The next crop will not be ready. We won’t have one and we see a food crisis already.”
Malnutrition is an enormous problem in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. Seventy-five percent of children in Ghana are anemic, due to malnutrition, agricultural problems, and rampant malaria; it’s worse in Côte d’Ivoire, Newman says. As the food crisis deepens, and Ebola threatens the borders, these yet-uninfected countries in West Africa could hold the key to stability in the region.
Ajumako-Techiman, in rural Central Region, Ghana. (Photo: M. Sophia Newman)
Newman stresses that containment of the current crisis is a top priority for officials and journalists, as it should be—but “downstream effects have been neglected, especially food security and other public health issues.”
Newman is ready to tell the important stories from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, but she needs your support to do so. She’s started a crowdfunding project on Beacon to make her reporting trip possible. For the next 24 hours, Pacific Standard will match all donations to her project, dollar for dollar.
Why Newman? Why this project? “The people I’m close to [from Ghana] live on a dollar a day,” she says. “There’s not a whole lot of room left for them to lose that economic power and stay healthy.”
Her public health expertise and previous experience in Ghana will be invaluable to the project, which will deliver personal stories about the broader impact of the Ebola crisis—looking further down the road from today’s hysteria. —Bettina Chang
Read more about “After Ebola Comes Hunger” and pledge your support. Our matching period will end at 3 p.m. PT on November 6.