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Aug 7, 2014, 17:02
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According to the World Health Organisation, the worst Ebola epidemic in history is plaguing West Africa where 887 people have died so far. Its indicative from the same data that between 31st July and 1st August 61 deaths were recorded. This is alarming and absolutely distressing prompting the World Bank to allocate $200m in emergency assistance to help West African countries contain the Ebola virus (BBC News, 5/8/14). The unbelievable scenario surrounding the Ebola epidemic is the mythical representation that overshadowed the reality of the issue in Sierra Leone. The outbreak is unprecedented both in infection numbers and in geographical scope. The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa can be genuinely and authentically depicted as the worst outbreak of the virus in history. To underscore this argument, since the virus was first discovered in 1976, it hasnt killed as many people as the current epidemic nor has it spanned more than one country per outbreak. For instance, the current outbreak is in three countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) and arguably Nigeria where a US citizen of Liberian origin died from the virus and one of the Nigerian doctors who treated the patient has also contracted the virus.

In light of this therefore, one can credibly posit that the epidemic is unprecedented and unprecedented circumstances require unprecedented actions. That is the reason why various global health organizations are striving to send in backups, but containing the virus has become more about information than anything else. The brute reality is that, the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone (in particular) is being presented as a mythological and imaginary eternal illness by supercilious and egocentric educated elites for political reasons.

The mythical representation of the Ebola virus has been presented by certain educated elites through the concepts of misinformation, propaganda and blatant deception by impudently maintaining that Ebola doesnt exist. As a result of this therefore, the government, health officials, and the civil society have been frantically fighting against misinformation, hostile relatives and cultural practices involving funeral rites and eating habits. It is mystifying and wholly bewildering for educated elites to rumour information that those infected with Ebola virus are been killed through lethal injection by foreign doctors. Such lynching mindset embedded in misinformation and mental trickery led family members to storm hospitals and forcibly remove their Ebola stricken relatives at the inception of the crisis. There was huge reticence and reservation from the local population at the inception but that is gradually changing.

Captain Saio S. Marrah (Rtd) Expert in International Relations and International Security Studies

To disprove of such unfounded allegations of foreign doctors as erratic executioners of Ebola patients, various health organizations have made concerted effort to put Ebola survivors on the radio. The reason for this, it can be argued, is to change the cultural perception and the ill-mannered political misinformation that misled our people initially - but not by any stretch of imagination to contradict them. Changing the traditional ways of honouring the dead has been almost insurmountable. Funeral rites in Sierra Leone usually if not always involve family members washing and touching the body of the deceased. But under such circumstances, washing and touching the dead can lead to onward transmissions of the virus to unaffected individuals. When the Ebola virus struck Uganda in the recent past, changes in their burial and other cultural practices were observed and the outbreak was contained within three months.

Globalization and Inter-Connectedness in the Midst of Ebola Outbreak

The Ebola virus, it can be said, is not only a health and security threat for West Africans but a threat to the world at larger. As we live in a global village and due to the concept of interconnectivity and shared global values and interest epitomised by globalization, territorial borders are only imaginative in existence. Therefore, the practical territoriality of physical borders has fundamentally changed by the swift movement of people, goods and services. Where as in third world countries especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, international borders are porous and largely unmanned; in advanced countries borders are secured but due to the effect of globalization they are essentially enmeshed. For this reason, it can be ascertained that the issue of physical territorial borders is not only questionable in the contemporary era but quintessentially anachronistic and to a greater extent inapt - rendering international borders almost nonexistent or rather abstract and imaginary.

In view of this therefore, it can be imagined that due to the swift movement of people in this globalised and interconnected world, the Ebola epidemic can be considered a global threat. For instance, Nigeria reported its first Ebola death on 24/7/14 as a result of a passenger plane flying from Liberia that was carrying an infected Ebola patient who eventually died in Lagos. Sadly enough the most populous African state recorded her second Ebola case on Monday (4/8/14). The patient is one of the doctors who treated a gentleman that died from the virus after arriving from Liberia.

That said, the virus can easily spread through infected passengers travelling from one country to another. In many instances, passengers might travel through three continents at a go before arriving at their final destination. Two US doctors (Nancy Writeboll and Kent Brantly) have contracted the Ebola virus in Liberia and the latter has arrived in the US on the 2nd August 2014 for treatment at a specialised unit in Atlanta, Georgia while Nancy will join him in the same facility soon. Any mistake in that medical unit can lead to catastrophe in the US. Hitherto, its apparent that there is a cognitive logical argument underpinning the assertion that the Ebola epidemic is not only a threat to West Africa but the world at large due to the agents of globalisation and inter-connectivity.

In the initial stage of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, there were misinformation, deception, mental trickery and dangerous politicisation all largely characterised by conspiracy theories orchestrated by certain people who are not only educated but highly responsible in the society. They vehemently argued that Ebola doesnt exist. As if such unsubstantiated allegations were not enough, they went further to accuse the government of Sierra Leone that they are only claiming that Ebola is in Sierra Leone in order to solicit funds and divert same elsewhere.

There was also a lame argument which they used to mislead people from the Eastern part of Sierra Leone that the health officials are purposefully and tenaciously injecting people with lethal injections. Additionally, such pessimistic and cynical individuals further maintained that the APC led government is bent on reducing the population of the people in the Eastern part of Sierra Leone so that their numbers will drastically fall in the forth coming census. Such allegations, I will opine, are not only unfounded and tenuous but absolutely unimaginable and inconceivable rendering their rationality, rationally irrational.  

The people, as well as government officials must change their attitude and approach towards the epidemic. Imagine Dr. Sylvia Blydens morally grounded argument and well articulated presentation of the Ebola Virus/Epidemic depicting the reality of the casualties on the ground whiles extrapolating sensible recommendations. In spite of all her relentless efforts, she was insensitively and incoherently challenged by colleague government and health officials who thought political gains far surpass Dr. Blydens moral, ethos and ethical trajectories of complex and multifaceted issues engulfing the Ebola Crisis. What a shame?

We must take Ebola seriously by adhering to preventive measures, monitoring and communicating developments constructively. Research indicates that Medical Corps alone cant stop the epidemic because its arguably incurable. The simple fact is that the help and cooperation of the people in the fight against Ebola is invaluable. Realism and not illusionary impression (I will suggest) must be adopted in understanding and interpreting the Ebola virus/epidemic. Ebola must be seen for what it is and shouldnt be unduly politicised (by disillusioned opposition elements) or de-emphasised (by nave government officials).

Tackling Ebola is like fighting a war but Eb is deadlier than war hence the enemy is not only fatal but abstract and invincible. In this regard, give without hesitation correct, accurate and refined medical intelligence and situation reports to the Commander in Chief President Koroma and not superficial and doctored reports that might mislead him. Remember, the current Ebola Crisis is not only a health issue but one engulfed in security, moral, ethical, economic, diplomatic and social facets. So whenever we make any public statement about the Ebola Epidemic, the structure, articulation and rhetoric must match the message we are disseminating. In order to avoid national and international embarrassment, lets be aware of who makes what statement and to which audience. With all hands on deck, the war against Ebola is winnable.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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