Essays, poems and Stories of an African-American

Monday, 20 October 2014

Thomas Rogers Muyunga Mukasa shares tips on how to: Stop othering and start bothering: Ebola is our concern

“……….Meanwhile Ebola, a master virus with the ability to infect humans is doing all the havoc. Like Nero going on with piping while humans burn!..”

Africa, the Motherland, once again has been hit by a frenzy of curiosity. On one side there is genuine Public Health response driven by a sense of care. There is a side that has helped accumulate large gigabytes of aspersions cast at Africa and all who mention they are from there! This is so because of Ebola!

The African nations are yet to come out fully to help in this fight. Africa has to consolidate the AU. The AU needs to strategize around poverty and ensuring the communities are supplied basic services. As far as Ebola is concerned, the AU needs logistics to stop it spiraling both in form of infections and stigma.  Africans in many areas outside Africa are fearful,  are stigmatized and discriminated today just because they happen to be Africans! The long term intervention should be against poverty and the chronic lack of medical care, infrastructure, and supplies in countries such as Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are driving the disease. The emergency response to Ebola has been hampered by systemic poverty: Liberian medical workers went on strike to protest a rampant lack of proper equipment, and burial teams in Sierra Leone also struck after not being paid for their work. 

Africans in the Diaspora who can make noise about the Ebola crisis need to come out strongly. By now, we would be hearing of efforts to: assuage the hysteria around Ebola; they need to talk about Ebola at their community levels and this will galvanize response and help demystify it as well. There are stories of discrimination, stigma and scares at the Airports or points of entry where Africans are concerned. 

Africa needs to work with the international community as much as it needs to come up with an African Union led intervention. USA has the Ebola Czar in place and so has the European Union. The US federal government is revising protocols for health workers handling Ebola patients. one of several changes to the medical system resulting from the arrival of the disease in the USA is calling for protective gear "with no skin showing." President Obama named Ron Klain as the Ebola Czar, to coordinate the US response to the outbreak. The leaders of the 28 EU nations are behind the Ebola response as well and soon they too will come up with an Ebola coordinator to bring together resources and funding to tackle the deadly disease before it becomes a global disaster.

The international response is so detailed and getting thorough every single moment:  the USA has mobilized its resources variously at White House level and at the US NIH; Private sector in USA is also mobilizing logistics and the CDC continues to take a prevention lead as well through: The newsflashes; actual health interventions; actual airlifting of infected persons; intervening by guiding the response and further improving the protocols.

On the African realm, there have been in-country efforts in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. But there is much work needed to address the crisis in Africa as well as the fear and mistrust of health workers and governments. Dr. Peter Piot, the person who helped in designing early interventions against Ebola in DRC in 1976 says, “we are a long way off catching up with the current outbreak, and even further from being in control of it."

Ebola outbreak was first identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 (then known as Zaire). Then it was quickly contained, whereas the current outbreak rapidly spiraled out of control. The 1976 outbreak was confined to one village and affected 318 people, resulting in 280 deaths. This one began in early 2014, more than 7,400 people have been infected and about 3,400 people have died of Ebola, according to the World Health Organization.

It is possible to contain this if we all stop the stigmatizing and discriminative tendencies towards Africans or any one who has Ebola. Instead we need to engage in efforts that will not allow Ebola to prevail. This is what is required.

Dr. Thomas Rogers Muyunga-Mukasa, worked with others in Uganda during the 2000 and 2007 Ebola outbreak there. He currently lives in San Francisco and has helped moderate talks on Ebola there.


Liberia Town

Sierre Leone

Yambuku, near Ebola River

Ebola Virus

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