The PBS series “Frontline” pours a double shot of dismal on Tuesday in a program that examines the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and atrocities in Nigeria related to the hunt for Boko Haram.
Though neither segment has the depth of a full documentary, each is disturbing, evidence of flawed responses to disasters of very different kinds.
The Ebola report looks at a microcosm rather than the entirety of the still-spreading outbreak.
The segment starts in July, visiting a relief operation in Sierra Leone centered on a beleaguered hospital.
“When the hospital was built four weeks earlier, 64 beds seemed more than enough,” the narration says. “That’s no longer the case.”
We see a Doctors Without Borders team trying to deal with the swelling caseload and can only be awed by the courage of those doing the work.
Treating the sick is just part of the challenge; finding people who are ill and persuading them to come into the hospital rather than stay in their villages and infect others is also a formidable task.
Hope is in scant supply; death isn’t.
“You’re just walking, trying not to step on the graves,” one responder says. “Trying to show some respect, but at the same time, it’s so unceremonial.”
Images of hospital patients awaiting their fates are heartbreaking and made all the more so by the knowledge that many caught the virus while caring for sick relatives.
Nothing in this report is new, but its sheer starkness supports the growing call for a more vigorous international response to the outbreak.
Some governments in the countries affected by Ebola seem unwilling or unable to deal with the crisis. The second subject “Frontline” examines, the Boko Haram situation in Nigeria, has also been exacerbated by government failures.
Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group, has wreaked havoc on parts of Nigeria, most infamously by kidnapping scores of girls, an act that has brought worldwide outrage.
But Evan Williams, the producer and reporter of the segment, has secured a series of hard-to-watch videos that indicate that the hunt for Boko Haram has resulted in its own atrocities, apparently committed by the military and government-sponsored militias doing the hunting.
The videos show beatings and executions of people accused — often, Mr. Williams reports, without merit — of belonging to Boko Haram. The brutality, some witnesses say, has actually driven people to align with Boko Haram to escape these supposed saviors.
The possible responses to the Ebola outbreak are at least knowable. What the world should do about the horrors in Nigeria is far less clear.Continue reading the main story