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What are Lavakas?

What are Lavakas? | Geography Education |

"The word lavaka means 'hole' or 'gully' in Malagasy, and it has become the accepted international term for the spectacular erosional features that characterize the highlands of Madagscar. Lavakas are gullies formed by groundwater flow, with steep or vertical sides and flat floors."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Lavakas are often seen as an ecological catastrophe since rapid deforestion leads to young, active lavakas that can silt up rice fields.  While obviously not desirable, these scars on a deforested landscape do offer a glimmer of hope as well. Some National Geographic explorers are finding that older, stabilized lavakas can become great agricultural pockets for rebuilding in these denuded communities.


Tags: Madagascar, erosion, environment adapt,  environmentecology, political ecology, Africa, National Geographic.

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Ghanaian coffins

Ghanaian coffins | Geography Education |

"Amid calls for a three-day weekend in Ghana to allow residents to attend more funeral parties (with the emphasis on party), here's a look at some of the country's famous customized coffins."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Cultural practices surrounding death are designed to honor the departed and are deeply situated in the local customs.  Some people from a different cultural setting might find the cultural practices of Mexico's Day of the Dead startling.  A Google Image search of "Ghana coffin" is a fascinating display of vibrancy and life surrounding death in Ghana. 

Questions to Ponder: Do you this as having elements of popular culture or folk culture?  Would these coffins 'work' in other places?  Why or why not?  What other cultural traits and attitudes need to be in places for this to be cultural acceptable?       


Tagscultural norms, folk culture, cultureGhana, Africa.

Kevin Nguyen's curator insight, December 13, 2015 1:14 PM

In some culture this might be something appropriate to celebrate. However, in some culture such as the west, it's a day of mourning. It's is very interesting to see how people celebrate the the death as a festive day because they might be moving into a better life. It all depends on the beliefs of someone to make something like this happen.

Benjamin Jackson's curator insight, December 13, 2015 5:18 PM

the idea that funerals should be festive is an idea with a large history. it is also, i think, a very good idea. many people already get together after a funeral and drink and talk about the good times they had with the dead person, and it helps with a sort of closure.

Sarah Cannon's curator insight, December 16, 2015 5:24 PM

I've never heard of this type of burial traditions. The typical burial that I hear about and experience are the old, wake and funeral the day after the wake.  I've also heard of funerals that are held in New Orleans, when someone died the people of New Orleans paraded down the street singing and playing happy music. This was a celebration of there life. Wakes and funerals that I'm used to are always sad and depressing and held at a church and funeral home then the deceased are to be buried at a cemetery. In this article, caskets are designed differently, as you can see in the photo above. Some caskets are in the shape of a shoe, fish, car, or even a camera. Interesting way to celebrate the deceased.

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The Electronic Afterlife

"E-Waste is a growing problem in our consumer-based society. The geography of e-waste is an ‘out of sight out of mind’ problem that we rarely think about but need to due to the ecological impacts of our collective consumption."

Tags: pollutionsustainability, environment, resources, Ghana, Africa.

Jeremy Hansen's curator insight, November 10, 2015 11:37 AM

Maybe getting that new iPhone isn't such a good idea, eh?

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African dams linked to over one million malaria cases annually

African dams linked to over one million malaria cases annually | Geography Education |

"Over one million people in sub-Saharan Africa will contract malaria this year because they live near a large dam, according to a new study which, for the first time, has correlated the location of large dams with the incidence of malaria and quantified impacts across the region. The study finds that construction of an expected 78 major new dams in sub-Saharan Africa over the next few years will lead to an additional 56,000 malaria cases annually."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Medical geography explores the patterns and impacts of diseases; physical geography (temperature and precipitation) and human geography (development, standard of living, etc) both shape these patterns.  This article is a good example of how both play key roles since the distribution of mosquitoes is a critical component in the geography of development. 

Tagsmedical, diffusion, Africa, development, infrastructure.

CHS AP Human Geography / Beth Gehle & Amy Rossello's curator insight, September 21, 2015 7:39 PM

Interesting link between infrastructure projects and malaria in Africa -- a twist on what we talked about in the Development unit.

Gene Gagne's curator insight, November 4, 2015 3:59 PM

I hope they have the shots for immunization against malaria.

Tanya Townsend's curator insight, November 16, 2015 10:39 PM

This is a great article on the side affects of man made infrastructure. While dams can be used in positive ways they can also have negative effects like this that probably were not even considered.

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100 African Cities Destroyed By Europeans

100 African Cities Destroyed By Europeans | Geography Education |

"When tourists visit sub-Saharan Africa, they often wonder 'Why there are no historical buildings or monuments?'  The reason is simple. Europeans destroyed most of them. We only have a few drawings and descriptions by travelers who visited the places before their destruction. In some places, ruins are still visible. Many cities were abandoned when Europeans brought exotic diseases (smallpox and influenza) which started spreading and killing people. Most of those cities lie hidden. In fact the biggest part of Africa history is still under the ground."

Seth Dixon's insight:

This article is a good introduction to historical African urbanism.  It is also a powerful reminder that the landscape does not only teach us based on what we see--the landscape can be a powerful witness by reminding us of the what is glaringly absent. 

Tags: historical, urban, placeAfricacolonialism.

Chris Costa's curator insight, October 27, 2015 4:27 PM

The issues with poverty and hunger that grip certain parts of Africa- particularly the sub-Sahara- find their roots in the utter subversion and destruction of African societies and states during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the subsequent colonization of Africa. European traders placed significant strain of existing African states during the 14th and 15th centuries, as the emergence of "slave states" and the extent of the trade completely changed the demographics of much of Africa. Labor shortages lead to technological shortfalls as well as the dissolution of many African states, as predatory states continued to destroy many civilizations and cultures. By the time that the majority of the West had banned the trade in the 19th century, the damage had already been done; many of the great civilizations of Africa had regressed or been entirely wiped out under the pressure of Europe's demand for slaves. The subsequent colonization of the continent only worsened matters for the Africans, as major hubs of civilization were captured, raided, and destroyed. Traditional societies were subjected to European influences and religion and eventually lost, and yet Europeans looked at the destruction and the lack of economic and political progress their actions had caused and blamed it on the inferiority of the Africans themselves. History has not been kind to Africa, and it is important to remember that that is not her fault. Many civilizations, cities, and states were lost as a direct result of contact with Europeans during the slave trade and the subsequent colonization of the continent. 

Mark Hathaway's curator insight, October 30, 2015 6:34 AM

Before European contact, Africa had a number of great urban cities. European arrival foresaw the destruction of those once grand cities. The Europeans brought diseases such as smallpox and influenza to the African continent. Those diseases would hamper the previously unexposed African population. Slavery also drained Africa of millions of people as well. Great African civilizations were brought down by these various calamities. European  arrival was the death knell of the great African civilizations. Africa is still living with this legacy of destruction. Africa is the most rural region in the world, because of this legacy.

Gene Gagne's curator insight, November 4, 2015 4:07 PM

Just another way to eliminate any African culture or customs.

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South Africa xenophobic attacks: How did we get here?

South Africa xenophobic attacks: How did we get here? | Geography Education |

"As attacks against foreigners and their businesses rage on, killing at least six people this week, other nations in the continent are scrambling to evacuate their citizens from South Africa. But this is not the first time xenophobic violence has exploded in a country that tries to portray itself as a diverse 'rainbow' nation.

What triggered this week's attacks? They started after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said at a recent gathering that foreigners 'should pack their bags and go' because they are taking jobs from citizens, local media reported. Shortly after his comments, violence against immigrants erupted in the port city of Durban."

Tags: South Africa, Africa, conflictracismethnicity, migration.

Kevin Cournoyer's curator insight, May 6, 2015 7:07 PM

This was an interesting article to read, because it deals with a topic that I know almost nothing about. While I am, of course, familiar with the larger idea of xenophobia, I did not know that it is such a persistent and violent problem in South Africa. It seems that citizens of South Africa are concerned about their jobs being taken by immigrants and local businesses being undermined by foreign owned businesses. Immigrants have also been blamed for increased crime and poverty rates. 


This article just goes to show that regardless of time or geographic location, xenophobia will always exist and for the same reasons. Most Americans will remember how hot button an issue immigration was in the early 2000s. U.S. citizens were concerned that immigrants from Mexico and South and Central America were flooding into the country in alarmingly high numbers and were poised to take jobs away from Americans. This atmosphere seems to be echoed in South Africa and the attacks that have occurred there as a result of xenophobia. This is especially significant in a country where xenophobic tensions have shaped politics and social relations for so long. Unfortunately, South Africa just seems to be yet another link in the continuing trend of xenophobia that continues to occur across the globe. 

Benjamin Jackson's curator insight, December 13, 2015 5:30 PM

South Africa has always had major issues with race and ethnicity, especially in recent years. this has continued to get worse and worse, and it must be hoped that eventually the situation will be sorted out.

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The Daily Show–Spot the Africa

Between rampant racial inequality and Ebola outbreaks, South African comedian Trevor Noah admits he hesitated to visit a country as underdeveloped as America.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Since social media is buzzing with the news that Trevor Noah is replacing Jon Stewart as the host of the Daily Show, I wanted to show a geographically themed clip from one of Trevor's previous correspondence pieces on the show.  This clip was filmed during the height of the Ebola hysteria and Ferguson protests; the main topic is misconceptions in the United States about Africa.  His life itself is a portal into mixed South African geographies.

Tags: Ebola, Africa, regions, perspective.

Matthew Richmond's curator insight, November 4, 2015 7:46 PM

Re-scooped from Professor Dixon. This correspondent is actually from South Africa and he's pretty damn funny. I remember how freaked out my ex-girlfriend was that she was going to get Ebola. And the reference to saving African's for just five cents a day made me giggle. Also, it's pretty funny how bad the FDR looks.

Kevin Nguyen's curator insight, December 13, 2015 9:54 PM

There is no doubt that there a stereotype and a generalization people make to Africans. This clip really emphasize those points and turn it into comedy, which is very creative. It makes people like me laugh at ourselves sometimes at the things we do as far as branding a group of race base on popular culture.

Adam Deneault's curator insight, December 14, 2015 6:15 PM
As comical as this is, it goes to show the kind of racism and pride we have in our country. Here the guest speaker says he took multiple photos of different places and wanted the host to figure out if it is America or Africa. Most of the photos showed undeveloped or terrible sections of the US and opposite for Africa. Each time the pictures were shown, the host assumed it was Developed America and underdeveloped Africa.
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These Amazing Maps Show the True Diversity of Africa

These Amazing Maps Show the True Diversity of Africa | Geography Education |

"African countries are also quite diverse from an ethnic standpoint. As the Washington Post's Max Fisher noted back in 2013, the world's 20 most ethnically diverse countries are all African, partially because European colonial powers divvied up sections of the continent with little regard for how the residents would have organized the land themselves. This map above shows Africa's ethnographic regions as identified by George Murdock in his 1959 ethnography of the continent."

Tags: Africacolonialism, borders, political, language, ethnicity.

Shane C Cook's curator insight, May 27, 2015 8:54 AM

Africa is a very diverse and complicated continent due o mistakes made in the Berlin Conference. The strange boundaries drawn restrict these African nations to be one with their own people not with their enemies.

Chris Costa's curator insight, October 27, 2015 4:51 PM

We have seen the repercussions of ethnic tensions play out in the Balkans, the Middle East, and even in the United States, and Africa is no exception. Arbitrarily drawn national borders- the remnants of European colonialism- means that there is often significant ethnic diversity within many African nations. Although this creates interesting blends of language and culture, it has often bred violence in many countries, perhaps most notably in South Africa and Rwanda. Although many members of the West like to lump the entire continent into a single category, this could not be further from the truth. The second largest continent with extreme biodiversity, it has bred thousands of languages and hundreds of different cultural backgrounds, sometimes within a single country. It is important for the West to understand the complex make-up of the African continent in order to avoid the Eurocentric assumptions many Westerners make when discussing the continent. There isn't a single "Africa"- there isn't even a single "Nigeria," but rather a multitude of different peoples and cultures, equally as complex as those found in other regions of the world. This map does a very good job at illustrating the complexity and richness of the continent.

Mark Hathaway's curator insight, October 30, 2015 7:20 AM

People often underestimate how diverse Africa really is. We often have the tendency to lump all Africans together in one large ethnic group. The actual number of different ethnic groups in Africa is rather staggering. This map can also be used as a partial explanation for the amount of ethnic conflict in Africa. Often times, these ethnic groups are squashed together in states with poorly drawn borders. Under that situation, ethnic conflict becomes inevitable.

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The Great Mosque of Djenné

The Great Mosque of Djenné, Mali, is a magnet for tourists, but it is increasingly difficult for locals to live a normal life around it.
Seth Dixon's insight:

This New York Times short video is an intriguing glimpse into some of the cultural pressures behind having the designation of being an official world heritage site.  The great mosque combined with the traditional mud-brick feel to the whole city draws in tourists and is a source of communal pride, but many homeowners want to modernize and feel locked into traditional architecture by outside organizations that want them to preserve an 'authentic' cultural legacy.

Tags: Islam, tourism, place, religion, culture, historical, community, Mali, Africa.

Anneliese Sjogren's curator insight, December 10, 2015 10:18 PM

This was interesting to me, because although the people want to modernize, they can't. I don't think that this is fair to them, and that they have to keep on working on making these mud bricks when it is time consuming, and they do not last for long.

Benjamin Jackson's curator insight, December 13, 2015 5:50 PM

it is horrifying that a government could force people to live in abject poverty and that the only source of income in this area is a tourist trap that needs to be rebuilt every few years in its entirety.

Adam Deneault's curator insight, December 14, 2015 6:22 PM

This major tourist attraction site is very interesting, a mosque made of just mud. Everything is mud besides the mosque, business and individual homes. So unfortunately for the citizens, this is not a great place to live. Since this place is historic, outside sources such as the UN do not really want to help the people out because they want the city of Djenne to be preserved as a historic site and they want everything to be as if it was ages ago, they will not even allow interior redesign. It seems though as if the only money they will ever receive is pretty much tourist money,  They do want to modernize, but in a way that keeps the history visible. they have failed to modernize in other sectors, such as garbage disposal. their garage is destroying their water which is running through their streets and making the water quality bad, which in turn, makes the mud quality bad for building.

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How was the AIDS epidemic reversed?

How was the AIDS epidemic reversed? | Geography Education |

"If ever there was a demonstration of the power of science, it is the course of the fight billed 'Mankind v AIDS'. Until 1981 the disease (though already established in parts of Africa) was unknown to science. Within a decade it passed from being seen as primarily a threat to gay men, and then to promiscuous heterosexuals, to being a plague that might do to some parts of Africa what the Black Death did to medieval Europe. But now, though 1.6m people a year still die of it, that number is on a downward trajectory­, and AIDS rarely makes the headlines any more. How was this achieved?  The answer has two parts: sound science and international co-operation."

Seth Dixon's insight:

The Ebola epidemic has dominated headlines recently.  In their haste, it has been lost on that media the scary medical story of the 20th century (AIDS) that was going to doom Africa is now a success story.  Some of the stories about Ebola have treated Africa as one monolithic place--Africa is not a single story.  

Tagsmedical, diffusion, Africa, regions, perspective.

Kristin Mandsager San Bento's curator insight, April 8, 2015 10:09 AM

Its taken very dedicated advocates, scientists, doctors, and nurses to turn the AIDs epidemic around.  When the AIDs epidemic emerged there was a lot of speculation about how you could contract the disease.  Again through science people became educated.  This is a monumental fete that the AIDs virus is on a downward trajectory.  Thank goodness for advances in science and international co-operation.  

Raymond Dolloff's curator insight, December 15, 2015 12:07 AM

Over the last quarter century, the medical technology has ever so changed. Simple tests and modernized medications can help slow the progress of the HIV infection. The tests can tell if someone has advanced AIDS or early stages of the HIV virus itself. However, over the last year and a half, the epidemic has been placed on the back burner with the Ebola epidemic that has and still occurring. The fact that Ebola spread as rapidly as it did, shows that any virus or disease can spread extremely quick if someone comes in contact with bodily fluids of another human and can be contracted pretty quickly.

Martin Kemp's curator insight, December 17, 2015 3:10 PM

this is a media issue all over the world. focusing on one part of a story and not revealing the rest. people can focus on how bad things are or they can focus on the advancements and how much better things are than how they were and how they continue to get better, especially in regards to medical care in africa. their level of care is still just awful but is obviously steadily improving. especially in south africa.

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The long and ugly tradition of treating Africa as a dirty, diseased place

The long and ugly tradition of treating Africa as a dirty, diseased place | Geography Education |
How alarmist, racist coverage of Ebola makes things worse. A dressing down of the latest #NewsweekFail.
Seth Dixon's insight:

The recent Newsweek Cover showing a Chimpanzee for the article, Smuggled Bushmeat Is Ebola's Back Door to America, has received a lot of criticism for being factually inaccurate, but also for it's portrayal of Africa that taps into deep-rooted cultural anxieties about Africa in United States.  Western writers have use many cultural conventions to talk about "the Dark Continent" stemming from a long colonial tradition.  Africa had been developing rapidly in the last decade and how Ebola fares seems to be a referendum on the continent for many cultural commentators.  This great Washington Post article is less about Ebola, but uses the outbreak to analyze how we think about Africa, and sometimes it isn't a pretty reflection.  The Ebola outbreak is teaching us how we perceive Africa as much as it is about Africa itself.


Tags: Ebola, Africacolonialism, regions, perspective.

Kristin Mandsager San Bento's curator insight, April 9, 2015 2:21 PM

Before I even read the article, my first thought went to the Linneaus classification.  That really damaged history with this one chart.  I think people still think of Africans and blacks(very dark blacks) as dirty or unintelligent.  Which is horrible and couldn't be further from the truth.  Misinforming the public is criminal.  News media and social media need to be careful and educate properly.  I've been asked from a customs offical, "Have you been to Africa in the past 6 months?"  Which is a very blanket question because Africa is a continent.  There were areas that were not hit with Ebola.  

Chris Costa's curator insight, October 27, 2015 4:37 PM

Those who deny the continued influence of racism in our society are blinding themselves to the truth. Contemporary influences of the racism that plagued the preceding centuries are still found in most major media depictions of Africa. The Ebola epidemic has served to highlight the bigotry that plagues Western media, as the assumption that all of Africa is diseased and dirty is continuously perpetuated (when, in reality, Ebola only affected a very small part of the continent). Africa is presented as "other," a backwards continent that is in desperate need of Western help and guidance- in what was is that different from the European colonizers who also viewed their actions as benevolent attempts to "civilize" the uncivilized? That mindset has not left Western circles, and yet we continue to pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves for suddenly being so tolerant. The insensitivity of Western audiences to the concerns of black individuals both at home and in Africa related to the prevalence of racism highlights how determined mainstream media is to deny the existence of a problem. Until we recognize the Eurocentrism that continues to plague our media and make the necessary moves to correct the practice, harmful depictions of Africa will continue to loom large in Western media and in the opinions of many Europeans and Americans alike.

Mark Hathaway's curator insight, October 30, 2015 7:12 AM

Africa has long been treated by the western media as a dark , brutish, uncivilized place. Africa is a place were people starve and murder each other in large numbers. There is so much more to Africa than the picture I just described. The problem is, many people just do not accept the existence of a culturally complex Africa. That narrative would destroy the traditional  darker narrative of the past 500 years. A narrative grounded in the beliefs that blacks are inherently inferior beings. During the Ebola crises, the calls to cut off travel to Africa were quick and demanding. Had the crises been in England, would those same calls have been so loud? I think we all can guess the answer  to that question. Much progress has been made, but we still need to change our cultural depiction of Africa.

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How New Countries Gain Independence

"Secession movements seem to be everywhere: from the Kurds in Iraq, to pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists, to Scotland's aim to break up the UK. How does secession actually happen? Let's look back to South Sudan's successful secession effort to see exactly how new countries gain independence."

Seth Dixon's insight:

What does it take to actually secede from a country?  This video takes the example of South Sudan to highlight the necessary requirements to successfully secede and then gain full independence. 

Tags: South Sudanpolitical, sovereignty, Africastates, unit 4 political.

Nevermore Sithole's curator insight, October 14, 2014 4:27 AM

How New Countries Gain Independence

Norka McAlister's curator insight, February 23, 2015 7:06 PM

For a region to be able to succeed as an independent country, it must fulfill a series of requirements. In the case of Catalonia, Spain, it is far from what citizens in that area want to pursue, even when Catalonia is one of the richer regions in Spain. There are many factors that inhibit Catalonia from achieving its status as an independent country such as economic, political and cultural issues. With Spain’s current economy, it would be almost impossible for Catalonia to support itself as its own nation. In addition, if Catalonia gains its independence from Spain, it would not be able to be a part of the United Nations (UN). Language would prove as another obstacle for Catalonia as their combination of French and Spanish is not the official dialect of the region. Cultural assimilation would be difficult as Catalonians would have to transition and adapt Spain’s vascos and gallegos to a version of their own. However, centripetal forces in Catalonian citizens unify them as strong communicators within their region in order for them to promote and retain their distinct cultural identity.

As the video emphasizes how to gain independence; Catalonia does not qualify to achieve independence as it fails to meet some of the characteristics such as an “established group, marginalization, [and] economic stability.” However, as Spain’s economy begins to weaken, Catalonian citizens can take this opportunity to work towards their goal as being an independent entity from Spain

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Ebola easier to stop now than later

Help must come within weeks, or Ebola will require unimaginable resources. Data sources: &
Seth Dixon's insight:

The Ebola outbreak has been a horrific event and its spread has demonstrated many of the principles of viral diffusion.  Hans Rosling, the face of Gapminder, shows that immediate action now can prevent this from becoming a much worse crisis.  

Tags: medical, development, diffusion, Africa.

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, October 6, 2014 12:36 PM

unit 1 diffusion!

Michael Mazo's curator insight, October 6, 2014 2:54 PM

Ebola has been a growing concern for some time now. With its origin in Africa to its spreading throughout the world, people have become increasingly worried about contracting Ebola. With the initial diagnosis of the first patient infected with Ebola in the US, the CDC has been working constantly to prevent further spread of this infectious disease. Not only has this raised medical concerns, but as soon as the Ebola outbreak has entered the United States Biotechnology stocks began to rise. With the help of devices and programs stemming from Biotechnology there is great hope for eradicating the disease once and for all. Even healthcare workers are hesitant upon working with infected individuals, so hopefully biotech will enter with a grand entrance by providing materials or machinery to help prevent these workers from getting Ebola.

Wilmine Merlain's curator insight, October 16, 2014 11:46 AM

Although Ebola is a disease that can be stopped now, different measures need to be taken now. With the vaccines that were administered to the Ebola aid workers that were working in the site of the outbreak, mass production of that vaccine should be created and made available to those who are believed to be infected with this parasite.

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The Danger of a Single Story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
Seth Dixon's insight:

To gain a global perspective inherently requires understanding multiple perspectives.  Africa is frequently portrayed as 'the other' but also homogenized within a single narrative that 'flattens' truth.  How can we teach and learn about other places in a way that develops geographic empathy and shows the many stories of that can belong to any one place? 

Tags: Africa, perspective, TED.

Hailan Yu's curator insight, December 4, 2015 9:23 AM

To gain a global perspective inherently requires understanding multiple perspectives.  Africa is frequently portrayed as 'the other' but also homogenized within a single narrative that 'flattens' truth.  How can we teach and learn about other places in a way that develops geographic empathy and shows the many stories of that can belong to any one place? 


Tags: Africa, perspective, TED.

Kevin Nguyen's curator insight, December 13, 2015 9:41 PM

The broad paint brush that we paint over Africa as a place of poverty, underdevelopment and lack of education  is just mind blowing. The story that Ms. Adichie told about her life was very interesting and fascinating at the same time. It seems like she grew up from well off household, reading English books and having a normal life. However, when she went over aboard to U.S she experienced a culture shock of how people generalized Africa as a whole continent without any diversity. 

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Why Somaliland is not a recognized state

Why Somaliland is not a recognized state | Geography Education |

"SOMALILAND, a slim slice of Somali-inhabited territory on the southern shore of the Gulf of Aden, ticks almost all the boxes of statehood. It has its own currency, a reasonably effective bureaucracy and a trained army and police force. But it has yet to receive official recognition from a single foreign government in the years since it declared independence in 1991. To the outside world, it is an autonomous region of Somalia, subject to the Somali Federal Government (SFG) in Mogadishu. Why is it not a state?  Throughout the post-independence era, geopolitics in Africa has tended to respect 'colonial borders', i.e. the borders laid down by European colonial powers in the 19th century. Across the continent, there have been only two significant alterations to the colonial map since the 1960s: the division of Eritrea from Ethiopia, in 1993; and South Sudan from Sudan, in 2011."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Somaliland is a 'pocket of stability in a chaotic region.' The global community fears that granting recognition to a Somaliland might led to further devolution, even if the unrecognized government is functioning.  This is an excellent article from the Economist that demonstrates some of the key requirements to be a state, political and regional geography.  For another example of political geography of aspiring states, here is an article about the limited prospects of a future Kurdish state.      


Tags: devolutionpolitical, states, sovereignty, autonomy, unit 4 political, Somalia, Africa.

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, November 19, 2015 1:35 PM

unit 4

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, November 19, 2015 1:35 PM

unit 4

Raymond Dolloff's curator insight, December 14, 2015 11:55 PM

Like many new developing countries, it is hard to overcome the hardships to prove that you deserve to be recognized as a new nation. Being recognized as a true nation means that there is political and economic stability within a country. The area where Somaliland is located is very unstable. Its parent nation, Somalia is very unstable. For example, in Somalia, there are pirates who hijack mariners and take them and the vessel hostage. Stability within a country is a major aspect for the international community to look at to recognize new countries.

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The Geography of E-Waste

The Geography of E-Waste | Geography Education |
The world is increasingly going hi-tech. Many people in our high consumption society want the latest and the greatest; last year’s much anticipated laptops and cell phones are miles behind the newest models that are coming out. So what happens with the old models? Even thrift stores are politely not accepting them as donations. Even some workable machines that were highly valuable 10 years ago are now functionally trash in our society. We can’t put it to the curb to end up in the landfill because of the lead, mercury, and other hazardous materials that can leak into the environment. This type of trash is what we call e-waste. The geography of e-waste is an ‘out of sight out of mind’ problem that we rarely think about but need to due to the ecological impacts of our collective consumption.

Tags: pollutionsustainability, environment, resources, Ghana, Africa.

more...'s curator insight, November 6, 2015 5:39 AM

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Lorraine Chaffer's curator insight, November 6, 2015 5:22 PM

Areas of proaction and consumption / glean connections between places

Courtney Barrowman's curator insight, November 7, 2015 9:56 AM

summer work

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10 Poverty in Africa Facts - The Borgen Project

10 Poverty in Africa Facts - The Borgen Project | Geography Education |
Here are 10 facts about poverty in Africa that demonstrate the widespread consequences of poverty that affect education, health, food consumption and more.
Seth Dixon's insight:

Poverty happens all over the world, in the United States, in Africa, South America, you name a region and there is poverty in that area.  There are many myths about poverty though, and myths about regions where poverty defines the region in many people's eyes.   African economies are on the rise, but there is still many struggles ahead.  

TagsAfrica, development, statistics, economic, globalization, poverty.

Jose Soto's curator insight, August 5, 2015 9:48 PM

Poverty happens all over the world, in the United States, in Africa, South America, you name a region and there is poverty in that area.  There are many myths about poverty though, and myths about regions where poverty defines the region in many people's eyes.   African economies are on the rise, but there is still many struggles ahead.  


Tags: Africa, development, statistics, economic, globalization, poverty.

Chris Costa's curator insight, October 27, 2015 4:15 PM

The issues outlined by Western media concerning Africa are serious problems that the continent will continue to face over the course of the next century. However, Western media has a tendency to focus only on the troubles faced by Africa rather than its successes. We grow up hearing of starving children in Ethiopia, government instability, and the need for the West to donate and help their "less fortunate" kin. Africa has, in fact, made serious strives in terms of economic development, with serious foreign investment- particularly from the Chinese- and the growth of Africa's own industrial base contributing to rapid improvements in standards of living and infrastructure. The West continues to paint the picture of Africa that fits the narrative it has painted for the past century- an underdeveloped continent reliant on Western aid. However, despite the issues outlined in this article remaining serious issues, it cannot be denied that Africa has enjoyed serious progress over the past two decades. The political instability that plagued the continent for much of the second half of the 20th century has diminished, and will only continue to improve. Africa is turning into a major economic force on the world stage, no matter what the media is telling us- it will be interesting to see how much longer this false image of Africa can continue to be portrayed to the public.

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Ethiopia tests Sub-Saharan Africa's first light rail system

Ethiopia is due to launch a light rail transit system later this year, the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Seth Dixon's insight:

This is a very encouraging accomplishment; from Lagos to Nairobi, similar projects are now being considered. 

Tags: Ethiopia, Africa, development. transportation, planning, urban.

firesolid's curator insight, May 2, 2015 1:40 AM


Gene Gagne's curator insight, November 4, 2015 4:05 PM

Finally something positive.

Raymond Dolloff's curator insight, December 14, 2015 11:59 PM

As Africa, namely Sub-Saharan Africa, lacks the technology that is required to develop and maintain this type of transportation is a great start. Time shows that if a country is given a decent amount of time to develop something good will come to it. Advances in technology today make it easier for development to happen, but once again it comes down to the ease of access to this technology in order to properly develop this and maintain it at all times.

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Cultural Meaning in Moving Monuments

Cultural Meaning in Moving Monuments | Geography Education |

"Ever since I researched the meanings of monuments in the cultural landscape in Mexico City, I’ve been fascinated by the cultural politics of memory and heritage. The removal of a statue is a cultural 180, acknowledging what was once honored and revered is now something that is not worthy of that distinction. This sort of change is not without protests on both sides and a cultural rearticulation of who 'we' are when 'we' make a public memorial."

Seth Dixon's insight:

Cecil Rhodes was the namesake for the Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University and the colonial names of Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) and Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia).  He was deeply connected to British colonialism and was one of the most ambitious colonizers that expanded the British Empire.  This week a statue of Cecil Rhodes on the University of Cape Town campus was removed.  See the BBC article, Yahoo News!, and PRI podcastfor more details

Questions to Ponder: Why do you think this monument to Cecil Rhodes was established in 1934?  Why was it removed in 2015?  What does this say about South African politics and culture?  How might we characterize the supporters and opponents of the statue?

Tags: South Africa, Africa, historical, colonialism, political, landscape.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton's curator insight, April 14, 2015 7:52 PM

I have been to South Africa. The country is very still divided in many ways. My question is do our American students even know the history and geography of Africa? Do they know how the Europeans partitioned the continent ( divvied it up and laid claim to regions ) and that they did this across tribal lands to cause difficulty.


I understand the Rhodes scholarship, but it would be good for students and teachers to have ideationa scaffolding to understand the problems of today caused by practices of yesterday.

Rob Duke's curator insight, April 14, 2015 9:41 PM

There's a lesson here in the symbols of conflict resolution....what symbolic monuments do we have to move to solve social conflicts?

Mark Hathaway's curator insight, October 30, 2015 6:50 AM

The removal of an historical statue, is a broader reflection of what the population of a particular place is thinking. Who a people choose to honor, is a statement of the ideals they hope to espier to. For many people in South Africa, Cecil Rhodes is a symbol of racist colonial tendencies. You can not separate Rhodes from the age of western imperialism. He was one of the leading figures in the scramble for Africa in the late 19th century. In the United States we have seen a similar push to remove statues of historical figures with connections to slavery and racism. Many have called for the removal of statues honoring confederate leaders such as Jefferson Davis or Robert E Lee. The push has even spread to figures beyond those directly connected to the confederacy. The democratic party has removed the names of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from there annual party dinners. There connections with slavery and Native American treatment are just too much for some outraged democrats to handle. I am uneasy about the removals of these statues. History can never be erased. It is futile, to even attempt to do such a thing. Historical figures should be judged by the context of the times in which they lived. It is unfair to judge Thomas Jefferson by the standards of our modern age  society. The overt political correctness is troubling to say the least. It is a whitewash of history.

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Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan sign deal to end Nile dispute

Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan sign deal to end Nile dispute | Geography Education |
Three African leaders sign an initial deal to end a long-running dispute over the sharing of Nile waters and the building of Africa's biggest hydroelectric dam.
Seth Dixon's insight:

85% of the Nile's water comes from the Blue Nile that originates in the Ethiopian highlands--it is the Blue Nile that Ethiopia has been working on damming since 2011.  The Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) will be located near the border with Sudan (see in Google Maps).  Prior to this trilateral agreement, Egypt and Sudan received the majority of the Nile's waters because of outdated colonial-era treaties that ignored upstream riparian states.  This explains why in the past, Egypt was so adamantly opposed to Ethiopia's plan fearing that their water supply with be threatened.  Today though, the Egyptian President said, "We have chosen cooperation, and to trust one another for the sake of development."  

Tags: Ethiopia, Africasupranationalism, political, development, environment, water, energy, borders.

Lena Minassian's curator insight, April 8, 2015 12:45 PM

This was an interesting read because I was not too familiar with this dispute. Three leaders have officially signed a deal to end a long dispute over sharing the Nile waters and beginning to build Africa's largest hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia. The three leaders are from Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt and signed the agreement in Sudan's capital city. Many feared that previous Dam's would worsen the water supply but this new Dam will give a more fairer share for everyone. These leaders assured that this new Dam will not cause any harm to the downstream countries but this project is still a ooncern for Egypt. The nile is the only source of water for some. Ethiopia has stated the the river will be diverted a little but will still follow it's natural course. Ethiopia is being backed up by many other countries as well.

David Lizotte's curator insight, April 10, 2015 3:29 PM

The key of this article is that there has been an initial treaty signed. This agreement overturns a colonial era treaty which stated any countries upstream (south of Egypt) essentially had no right to touch the Nile in any way that would effect Egypt. They had veto power over everything. 

The reason behind this is that Ethiopia had overthrown there colonial power-Italy, in the 1890's-and was henceforth its own country. Another attempt to seize Ethiopia took place in the 1930's under Benito Mussolini's rule. Him being a fascist and wanting to be like Hitler and take everything certainly contributed to Mussolini wanting to take Ethiopia. Another contributing factor is the fact that Italy tried and failed in claiming/colonizing Ethiopia. They had lost in the battle field. Mussolini wanted to improve and prove Eastern Italian Africa's dominance. Ethiopia would be freed of Italy's rule during WWII and become its own country once again. In any case the article states the treaty designed by the British was set forth in 1929. Ethiopia was not part of British Africa, or a protectorate (in regards to what Egypt would become in relation to the UK), so Britain would not care about the Nile in Ethiopia, rather the Nile in Sudan and especially in Egypt. Any country upstream is to not obstruct or deter the natural flow of the Nile-a pivotal source for Egyptian civilization. 90 percent of Egyptians live within 20km of the Nile while a little over 50 percent live within 1km. It is clear Egypt needs the Nile in order to function.

Ethiopia is able to create jobs through the building of the dam and will also be able to employ people through dam maintenance, inspections, etc... for years to come (if the dam is built). The dam will also provide an immense amount of power/energy, truly benefiting the country. The article states Ethiopia just wants to take a more fair share of the Nile. Everybody feels entitled to the Nile. This concept I understand. With that being said I also understand the concept of Egypt being concerned. There country functions though the Nile and its existing. 

I would like to see more of Ethiopia's plans and the statistics they've gathered throughout the duration of this project. I'm sure they have comprised some projected statistics, not just focusing on the positive aspects (for them) but also the negative aspects for Sudan and Egypt. The article states Sudan is on board but Egypt-although taking part in the new agreement thus putting aside the colonial era treaty- is very hesitant when discussing the existence of the dam. Obviously there are fair reasons for the concern...but then again exactly what are the reasons? How would the Nile be affected by the dam and also how would countries downstream (Egypt, Sudan) be affected? 

Its a concern amongst African countries but is it also a concern amongst the world? Will professionals from other countries "put their two cents in?" 

With all this being said, I suppose it does not Ethiopia. They have already begun the process of building and are about 30% completed. As stated in this bbc article: Another interesting factor is how other sub Saharan countries are in favor of the dam. Why? Being in favor means they probably benefit from the dam as well, however this is something that may come to my light at the dam progresses. Until the dams construction is arrested, the dam is certainly being built. Ethiopia is making ground, excuse me energy, to better its country as a whole.  

Kevin Cournoyer's curator insight, May 6, 2015 7:22 PM

This article discusses the dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of a dam that would provide Ethiopia with a larger share of the Nile's water. Egypt is wholly opposed to this dam because it would mean less water for the country, which so desperately needs it. With 95% of the population of Egypt living within 20km of the Nile River, a reduction in the amount of water supplied to these tens of millions could potentially spell slow disaster. At the same time, however, Ethiopia desperately needs water from the Nile in order to provide sustainable energy for its citizens. 


The Nile has been a source of life and energy for thousands of years in an oppressively hot, dry place. The ancient Egyptians counted on the Nile to flood every year so that they would have arable land and used the large river to irrigate their farmland. It is almost ironic, therefore, that Egyptians are once again counting on the water of the Nile to help them survive in such a harsh climate. It seems that the Nile is one of those natural geographic features that is pivotal to political, economic, and social wellbeing. It represents the nexus between natural landforms and the political and economic goals of human beings and nations. Dispute over use of the Nile as a natural and life-giving resource is not the first instance of human debate over possession or use of natural geography and it likely won't be the last. 

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Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent

Africa, Uncolonized: A Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent | Geography Education |
What if the Black Plague had killed off almost all Europeans? Then the Reconquista never happens. Spain and Portugal don't kickstart Europe's colonization of other continents. And this is what Africa might have looked like.

Tags: Africa, colonialism, borders, historical, map.

Seth Dixon's insight:

On the flip side, here is a 19th century map highlighting how "colonizable" particular regions of Africa were considered back then by Europeans.  

Bob Beaven's curator insight, March 26, 2015 2:26 PM

An interesting fact for a geographer/historian to look at is how different events happening in history can affect a map.  This is very fascinating, because Africa or should I say Alkebu-Lan has very strong looking kingdoms without the Influence of Europe.  Another interesting element of the map is how it is not Euro-centric, Africa is shown as the top of the world.  I guess in this history, Northern Europe instead of being a powerhouse of the world, would be classified as the dark region (like the Congo was in our own world).  It is also interesting how the map is not Euro-centric, but the fact to keep in mind there is the old saying, history is written by the winner.  In this case, the map of the world was drawn by the winning Europeans as well, and this map completely reverses that.  Another interesting fact, is that the Iberian is part of an Islamic Empire.  It looks, as if in this history, Portugal was overcome by the "Arabes" and Spain never even attempted to launch the Reconquista.  History and Geography, especially Political Geography are very closely linked with one another.  

Chris Costa's curator insight, October 27, 2015 5:00 PM

I found this particularly interesting to read about, as alternative histories fascinate me. The "what if" questions that historians always ask themselves are fun to examine and illustrate, as they are shown in the alternative map of Africa. It's interesting to see just how different this map- drawn from historical accounts of ethnic and linguistic differences between the various African societies- is from the map of Africa we now have today. European colonizers drew borders without any consideration for the native populace, and that is today reflected in the rigid borders of African states that do not match historical ethnic boundaries. The concept of a Europe unable to recover from the Black Death would have serious repercussions for world history. It would allow for the progression of African economies and polities unmolested by European influences and the slave trade, completely reshaping the course of the continent's history. The increased influence of the Arab world would also be a plausible consequence of the decimation of Europe's population. This is an interesting concept, and it is very informative in the sense that it forces us to consider a multitude of factors that played a role in shaping the world as we see and live it today.

Mark Hathaway's curator insight, October 30, 2015 7:04 AM

Alternative history is always fun. There is no question that Africa would be a different place today, if Europeans had never step foot on the shores of this great continent. Would the great African empires still be alive today? Would Africa be the dominant continent in world affairs? The history of civilization over the past 500 years would almost certainly be radically different. Instead of a Eurocentric world, we may have had an Afrocentric world. What this map really underscores, is the effect that colonialism had on Africa. The Africa we know today is a consequence of that era of European domination. While alternate history is fun, we must always remember the actual history that has occurred in Africa.

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Too rich for its own good

Too rich for its own good | Geography Education |
The Democratic Republic of Congo is potentially one of the richest countries on earth, but colonialism, slavery and corruption have turned it into one of the poorest
Seth Dixon's insight:

One thing that baffles many students is how a resource-rich region can be an area of underdevelopment and poverty.  Understanding the historical geography is key for students being able to see that natural wealth does not correlate to enriching the local population.  Kinshasa, the capital that seemed so promising as the site of the famous "Rumble in the Jungle between Ali and Frazier, is now a city of chaos.  

Tags: Congo, political, conflict, resourcespolitical ecology, Africa.

Jacob Conklin's curator insight, May 6, 2015 1:04 PM

Geography talks a lot about the impact of globalization and imperialism. One of the best examples of this is found in The Democratic Republic of Congo. For its entire history, imperialist nations have sought out this country's resources and were not hesitant to exploit the population to accomplish this end. On of the great ironies in globalization is that the countries richest in resources are the most exploited. Take to the extreme as in Congo, the economy is so crushed that there is no way for the country to recover. 

Gene Gagne's curator insight, November 4, 2015 4:09 PM

Its all about greed. If people only had the respect for each other then with all the natural resources on earth we all could live comfortably.

Kevin Nguyen's curator insight, December 14, 2015 12:40 PM

It's a shame to know that there's a country of hopelessness out there with a potential to be a great one. The long term causes of colonialism had a huge impact on their development as a modern country. They were once a great empire but was diminished down to nothing by the European. Hopefully there will light to the darkness of Congo in the near future.

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Population growth far outpaces food supply in conflict-ravaged Sahel

Population growth far outpaces food supply in conflict-ravaged Sahel | Geography Education |

"The Sahel’s ability to produce food is not keeping pace with its growing population, and global warming will only exacerbate the imbalance, according to a new study.  Among the 22 countries making up the arid region in northern Africa, the population grew to 471 million in 2010 from 367 million in 2000, a jump of nearly 30%. As the population grew rapidly, the production of crops remained essentially unchanged.  Using satellite images to calculate annual crop production in the conflict-ridden Sahel belt, south of the Sahara desert, the researchers then compared output with population growth and food and fuel consumption."


Tags: Africa, Sahelpopulation, environment, water, ecology, environment depend, weather and climate, sustainability, agriculture, food production.

Benjamin Jackson's curator insight, December 13, 2015 5:59 PM

with the strife in this region it is hardly surprising that it is hard to maintain food supplies in the face of large scale immigration. in a region where it is hard to survive, immigration would be a massive threat, straining already thinly spread resources.

Raymond Dolloff's curator insight, December 15, 2015 12:22 AM

If a country has a big population growth, the resources that it has if they are already scarce may become devastating. As the population of Sahel does increase, the amount of food resources will not have the proper time to react to the growth. Granted it may take a while for agricultural crops to grow and many citizens may face hard times facing finding food, but their hardships will be overcome by farmers trying to produce more crops to help ease that hardship.

Martin Kemp's curator insight, December 17, 2015 2:38 PM

this seems like an alarmingly common problem in the world today with population growth happening at an alarming rate in many parts of the world. most notably india and china. as well as in sahel, if your population grows by 100 million in 10 years it will be impossible to keep up and be able to provide for that many people in such a reletively short time.

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Let’s Talk About Geography and Ebola

Let’s Talk About Geography and Ebola | Geography Education |
Why knowing where countries are in Africa matters for how the rest of the world thinks about Ebola.

Cultural and media norms that often refer to Africa as one entity rather than an 11.7 million-square-mile land mass comprised of 54 countries and over 1.1 billion people who speak over 2,000 different languages.  This cultural confusion means that, when a dangerous virus like Ebola breaks out, Americans who are used to referring to “Africa” as one entity may make mistakes in understanding just how big of a threat Ebola actually is, who might have been exposed to it, and what the likelihood of an individual contracting it might be.  This Ebola outbreak is wreaking havoc on African economies beyond the three most heavily affected by Ebola, and that damage is completely avoidable. The East and Southern African safari industry provides a good example. Bookings for safaris there — including for the famed Great Migration in Kenya and Tanzania — have plummeted due to the Ebola outbreak. These actions are based in fear, not reality.

Tags: Ebola, medical, diffusion, Africa, regions, perspective.

Seth Dixon's insight:

Geo-literacy is so critical; our level of geo-literacy shapes our framework for organizing global information.  Currently, two or three countries face the very real risk of becoming failed states as Ebola ravages them;  but painting with such a broad brush that Africa as all one region leads someone to think that all 54 African countries are equally at risk as if they all have the same geographic context.  

Lora Tortolani's curator insight, March 18, 2015 9:36 PM

It doesn't surprise me that the average person doesn't know his geography.  It shocks the hell out of me that a college would put themselves in a situation to look that stupid!  Do your research people.

Jared Medeiros's curator insight, March 29, 2015 5:08 PM

This is another example of stereotyping taking its course through Africa.  Even though I am aware of the size and diversity of Africa, I was guilty of associating Ebola with the whole continent and not just the affected areas.  Same thing goes with the AIDS virus and other things, such as poverty.  Articles are great for people in other parts of the world to read to better educate them on the size and diversity of Africa and that there are many different ways of life in its 54 countries.

Raymond Dolloff's curator insight, December 15, 2015 12:44 AM

The Ebola epidemic over the last year put everyone in the world on high alert, not just those who lived in Sierra Leone and many countries in West Africa. It is important to understand how the virus spread so quickly and the advancements made to treat the virus. Geography played a big part of the spread of the virus. Because Africa, and the countries are far from modern medical technology, many non-profit organizations like Doctors without Borders were dispatched to those affected areas to help show and train physicians there the proper techniques on how to treat infected people with Ebola. That's why on the map one can see a far range of countries who treated infected people in facilities that were built to handle cases of Ebola.

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How Ebola sped out of control

How Ebola sped out of control | Geography Education |
The story behind the failure of the world's health organizations to stop the Ebola disaster.
Seth Dixon's insight:

We have witnessed the terrifying dispersal of the Ebola virus in West Africa.  Cultural practices have facilitated the spread of Ebola in West Africa, and a distinct set of cultural practices is one reason why many experts do not expect it to spread in the United States.   The videos in this TIME article answer some basic questions about how the disease is spread while this data interactive has a useful timeline, map and charts to show the data behind the outbreak.  

Tags: Ebola, medical, development, diffusion, Africa.

Bella The Non-Vampire's curator insight, January 12, 2015 10:18 AM

The development between MDCs and LDCs are very different in a lot of ways. The Ebola epidemic is handled in two different ways because of the levels of development in countries. in MDCs there is more of a health indutry and can cure sicknesses much faster than those countries of less development. 





















































Kristin Mandsager San Bento's curator insight, April 9, 2015 2:29 PM

It was sad that it took over 4 months for there to be declared an epidemic.  I think if this hit in the US or Europe then things would have been taken care of a lot faster.  Out of sight, out of mind till one trickled in then another.  Then we got scared.  But Africa needs to get it together and create a better continent with healthcare systems that work.  The doctors over there said it looked medieval.  I believe that and can't even fathom how horrible it was.  

Molly McComb's curator insight, May 27, 2015 11:11 AM

Talking about the failure of WHO to stop the Ebola outbreak and how the low developed countries were so quickly affected by the disease.