Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is a journalist and broadcaster from Ghana who reports for NPR News on issues and developments related to West Africa. She spent her early years in Ghana, Italy, Britain and Kenya.

Quist-Arcton has lived and worked in the U.K., France, Ivory Coast, U.S., South Africa and most recently Senegal, traveling all over Africa as a journalist, broadcaster, commentator and host.

After completing high school in Britain, she took a degree in French studies with international relations and Spanish at the London School of Economics (LSE) and went on to study radio journalism at the Polytechnic of Central London, with two internships at the BBC.

Quist-Arcton joined the BBC in 1985, working at a number of regional radio stations all over Britain, moving two years later to the renowned BBC World Service at Bush House in London, as a producer and host in the African Service. She traveled and reported throughout Africa.

She spent the year leading up to 1990 in Paris, on a BBC journalist exchange with Radio France International (RFI), working in "Monito" — a service supplying reports and interviews about Africa to African radio stations, and with RFI's English (for Africa) Service as a host, reporter and editor.

Later in 1990, Quist-Arcton won one of the BBC's coveted foreign correspondents posts, moving to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to head the corporation's West Africa bureau. From there, she covered 24 countries, straddling the Sahara to the heart of the continent — crisscrossing the continent from Mauritania, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali, to Zaire and Congo-Brazzaville, via Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. She contributed to all BBC radio and television outlets, covering the flowering of democracy in the region, as well as the outbreak of civil wars, revolutions and coups, while always keeping an eye on the "other" stories about Africa that receive minimal media attention — including the continent's rich cultural heritage. Quist-Arcton also contributed to NPR programs during her reporting assignment in West and Central Africa.

After four years as BBC West Africa correspondent, she returned to Bush House in 1994, as a host and senior producer on the BBC World Service flagship programs, Newshour & Newsday (now The World Today), and as a contributing Africa specialist for other radio and TV output.

Quist-Arcton laced up her traveling shoes again in 1995 and relocated to Boston as a roving reporter for The World, a co-production between the BBC, Public Radio International (PRI) and WGBH. She lived in Cambridge and enjoyed getting to know Massachusetts and the rest of New England, learning a new language during winter, most of it related to snow!

For The World, she traveled around the United States, providing the program with an African journalist's perspective on North American life. She also spent six months as a roving Africa reporter, covering — among other events — the fall of President Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in 1997.

In 1998, after another stint back at BBC World Service, Quist-Arcton was appointed co-host of the South African Broadcasting Corporation's flagship radio drive-time show, PM Live, based in Johannesburg.

In 2000, she left the BBC to join allAfrica.com (allAfricaGlobal Media) as Africa correspondent, covering the continent's top stories, in all domains, and developing new radio shows for webcast and syndication to radio stations around the continent.

After six years in South Africa, Quist-Arcton joined NPR in November 2004 at the newly-created post of West Africa Correspondent, moving back to her home region, with a new base in Senegal.

Her passions are African art and culture, music, literature, open-air markets, antiques - and learning. She loves to travel and enjoys cycling and photography.

Ganta is the Liberian city that never sleeps. That's what local businessman Prince Haward says of the town of 40,000, one of the country's largest cities and a crossroads for travelers in the southeastern region: "Ganta is a nonsleeping city ... a business-oriented city."

Just off Tubman Boulevard — Monrovia's busy main thoroughfare — stands a plywood hut with a large blackboard at the front, in three panels. On them — written in clear, bold white chalk lettering — is a form of newsreel: mini-articles and editorials, as well as graphics and illustrations. The creator of Daily Talk — this Liberian journal with a difference — is Alfred Sirleaf. He's 41 and has been "writing" the news since 2000, three years before the civil war ended.

For months, Liberia was the country worst-hit by the Ebola outbreak. But the wards in Liberia's Ebola treatment units now stand virtually empty. The number of newly reported cases fell from almost 300 cases a week in mid-September to fewer than 100 by mid-October.

But that doesn't mean it's time to take it easy. In fact, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has just announced a new campaign, Ebola Must Go, which focuses on the role of the community.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Liberians have been gripped by crisis after crisis. A long and brutal civil war shattered the West African country and now Ebola. But NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been looking into another far lighter side of life in that country - fashion.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf hopes to ring in the holidays with an ambitious goal: no new cases of Ebola in her country by Dec. 25.

"We believe we had to set a target that gave our people hope, a target that would make them more committed to taking all the precautionary measures," she says. "Yes, it's called ambitious, but sometimes you have to take a risk in being ambitious."

Ebola has "orphaned" about 2,000 children in Liberia, health authorities say. Some children are being looked after in two shelters in the country's capital, Monrovia. Reuniting the kids with their relatives, or finding them foster homes, can take time.

As Nigeria's military continues to battle Boko Haram fighters for control of towns and territory in the turbulent northeast, fearful residents are leaving — or being driven out of town. More than 200 schoolgirls, abducted by the Islamist extremists in April, are still missing.

Hoisting the black flag of al-Qaida, the insurgents have imposed strict Islamic law in areas under their control, vowing to establish a caliphate.

Hopes were raised when the Nigerian military announced a cease-fire last month with the militants of Boko Haram, who have been fighting for years to impose Islamic law on Nigeria.

But the Islamist extremists denied there was a truce and have intensified deadly attacks and kidnappings in recent weeks, seizing territory said to be the size of Maryland and declaring a caliphate in the zone under their control.

Have you ever swallowed unflavored rehydration solution, or ORS? That's what they call the mixture of salt, sugar and water given to Ebola patients.

I've taken more than a mouthful, and urgh! It tastes dreadful.

But doctors who were among Nigeria's Ebola survivors all agree that they may not have recovered from the virus without having forced down the foul-tasting, but apparently life-saving fluid.

Gallons of it.

The campaign is called "Kick Back Ebola." But the posters pack a punch.

Sierra Leone has reported over 700 suspected Ebola cases, more than any other country this year. To help stop the outbreak, health workers have put up Ebola awareness signs all over Sierra Leone's seaside capital of Freetown.

Posters are pasted on hospital walls and outside clinics. Banners flutter along main streets. The goal of the campaign is to keep the reality of Ebola — and how to detect it — very much alive in people's minds.

At least eight Ebola patients in Guinea have beaten the odds. They have recovered and been sent home. In past outbreaks, the death rate has been as high as 90 percent. In Guinea so far, about 60 percent of the 157 suspected cases have ended in death.

They call them the "Lazarus" cases, after the Biblical character who died but was revived by Jesus. They are survivors of the latest outbreak of Ebola.

Ebola often grabs global headlines as the killer virus that can result in a death rate of up to 90 percent. But in Guinea, the death rate in the current outbreak has been about 60 percent. So there are survivors — to the delight of the overworked doctors, health workers and, of course, the patients who have recovered.

Guinea is on high alert. At the international airport, travelers' temperatures are monitored for signs of infection. In the capital city of Conakry, people rarely shake hands and are advised to regularly wash their hands with bleach-diluted water.

This is what life is like nearly three weeks after an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

It's not often that a broadcast interview by a diplomat wows listeners, but a recent conversation involving the American ambassador to Nigeria, James F. Entwistle, is causing a buzz – and winning applause.