Today’s topic of discussion is on something most of you have been hearing or even ‘hashtagging’ about--Ebola. This is a relevant and pressing topic and we felt it deserved our full attention and space in today’s blog post.
I’d like to first ask what the last tweet, post, or, news heading you heard on Ebola and who did it involve? If I were to have answered this question a month ago (before I started doing research on this topic) I would have said that I had seen an article I read of an American nurse surviving Ebola and hugging President Obama. This is clearly problematic, as media has made what initially was a large health concern in West Africa a problem in North America, thereby trivializing the issue. Not only has the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa been used as a source of panic and concern, but it is has also neglected to confront the situation at hand. We do not intend to make light of the situation by any means, but what we are saying is that the way in which the West has taken this illness and hyperbolized it into a crisis of their own is not okay.
Let us start by clearing some misconceptions and clarifying facts on the outbreak of the virus and its origins: Ebola has been around since the 70’s, and was first diagnosed near the Democratic Republic of Congo. The current outbreak of Ebola happened in West Africa; 5,177 people have been killed so far in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia from the current outbreak; 49 people have been killed in the DR Congo from a separate strain of the virus and the three-month outbreak was deemed to be contained as of November 15th; the number of people in and from the United States who have been killed by the virus is 1.
The extremely hyperbolized attention and reaction the epidemic has received displays just one of the ways that issues relating to Africa have been exploited. Ebola received almost triple the attention when it was revealed that a US citizen had contracted it from Sierra Leone. Yet, the news coverage that this particular individual received was comparatively larger then the two missionaries who contracted the virus. Many internet personalities have voiced the opinion that this is due to the status of his immigration from Africa, and thus not originally American. He received an incredible amounts of criticism, stating conspiracy to spread the virus in the US, and some believed he came back to the States knowing he would receive better medical attention since others did not even want him to come back to the US due to fear of infection. All these comments are absurd. Nonetheless, the point of this is that the West has taken a crisis relating to West Africa and made it theirs, they’ve been able to label it as an “other” by making it a “third-world-illness” and not just an illness. Ebola has been sensationalized and by sensationalizing it we impair the people most vulnerable to it. The one thing that Ebola has done, however, is addressed the attention many of these countries are lacking in infrastructure of in their health services. Better health care and protection is a prevailing factor that is helping diminish the spread of the disease. The direction of the conversation should be addressing the types of support of heath care in West African countries, rather than the protection that the West needs from it.
Although the news coverage of Ebola has settled somewhat down in the past weeks, these examples have shown once again the absurd disproportionate response constructed by western culture.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been officially declared “Ebola-free.”