The Ebola Paradox: How the “West” downplayed the outbreak and now wants to outplay it?

Source: D. Faget/AFP/Getty Images

Source: D. Faget/AFP/Getty Images

Personally, it continues to be disheartening to read reports and news from the epicenter of the ebola outbreak in Western Africa. The entire ebola fiasco keeps my blood running up the hill as a global citizen and concern parent who is going to co-parent his children in this confused world where our interests in humanity are measured by geographic polygons and what matters to us the most is how we can continue to fuel our consumerist appetite, while the “rest” die in poverty and we plead with our governments to isolate regions infected with ebola. Good for once, President Obama and I share similar volition on the ebola outbreak and his decision not to impose flight restrictions, but vigorously monitor all those going out and coming in. I hope he follows through on that as well as his frustration relative to the lack of adequate assessment of the current state of ebola at the epicenters of the outbreak.

What makes this special to me is that I have lived in the affected countries back in the early 1990s and 2000s. I was in Sierra Leone back in the early 1990s when we fled the Liberian civil wars. Charles Taylor’s greed for natural resources, power and to secure his control of the region accelerated the campaign of the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone (SL) against the SL government, which eventually led to another brutal civil war, recruitment of child soldiers and deaths of innocent people. This led us to fled our safe haven from Kanema [currently one of the highly infected region of ebola] in Sierra Leone to seek refuge in Guinea. While in Guinea, Taylor’s men and rebel factions did not hesitate to cross the Guinean-Liberian border to raid refugee and displaced camps to lot food, money, take children who they eventually militarized into fighters and women as sex slaves. This led the Guinean government to equipped few refugees with weapons to protect themselves and also recruited volunteers to protect their borders against the rebels raiders from Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Given the above circumstances, we fled to the Ivory Coast and eventually safely landed in Ghana and 11-year after we arrived in Ghana in 1995, I am here in the US. So, when I hear the devastating news of ebola deaths and victims, I only imagine that some of those who may have died from this deadly disease could be people I may have known or some of those who may have helped me and my siblings escaped those bloody civil wars. All these atrocities were fueled by support for Taylor from the diaspora of those who saw war as the only remedy to instate the so-called democracy. When Taylor became a tyrant, they [as usual] withdrew their support and started to provide weapons to less moderate rebels [sounds familiar?] in an effort to kick Taylor out of the game plan. Well, in one way that planned worked as today he’s in prison; however, not for crimes in Liberia, but Sierra Leone.

The outbreak of ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal throws light on an old story between the west and the rest within the framework of international development. The former sole interests are primarily based on measurable parameters of how much natural resources that can be extracted to feed their perpetual modernized lives at the expense of the later whose livelihoods and existence are conditioned by the mercy of the former. This paradox between the west and the rest is not new within the development, environmental, economic, political and social landscapes and their initial reactions to the outbreak speak louder of this confused paradox. Where diseases, poverty, hunger, conflict, wars and social disorders have been conceptualized by the west as a common phenomenon of African countries, thus, given that ebola continues to strike doesn’t make it any different from that of malaria, HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, etc. But in reality, Africa and African countries are not any different from anywhere else because we breathe the same air, feel the same sunlight and walk on the same soil. Why should an African problem be viewed and naively operationalized as ‘just as an African problem’? Big institutions in the developed world with their development agendas seem to still operate under a hidden themes of neo-colonization. Their delinquent appetite to vigorously fight against ebola and poverty goes back to colonization and the mentality that governed it during those dark days are the same mentality engineered by the lack of adequate response to aggressively combat ebola.

The reason that I am narrating this story is because the current ebola outbreak in West Africa is of no surprise. The only question that we all need to ask them [WHO] is that, why didn’t their words guided by their actions relative to the current ebola outbreak? I also wonder, why has the international community, the European Union and even the United States of America taken so long and continue to do so after initial reports (in March 2014) by MSF predicted the unprecedented nature of the ebola outbreak? Why were their conceptualization of the disease? Was it considered as “that’s their business and let them deal with it” mentality? It appears to be so given that the so-called World Health Organization (WHO), downplayed MSF’s initial report. Now, some folks at the WHO feel the need to speak out and expose the institutional inequality and malpractices to address the ebola outbreak.

Reports emerged that the US led bioweapon lab in Kanema, Sierra Leone was ordered by the Sierra Leonian government to moved due to the locals complaining that the US Scientists at such lab could be the ones who initially release the virus, which led to citizens being infected. These and other issues complicate our fight against ebola and facilitate the process of not effectively containing the virus because locals just don’t trust their governments and their counterparts, as they are considered the perpetrators of this biological warfare.

As of now, the virus continue to be out of control and deaths due to ebola are also on the rise. Can the international community and their counterparts treat this virus as if it started somewhere in the West? If and only if that was the case [we don’t hope for that whatsoever], than I wonder if WHO and her affiliates would have downplayed such information? I bet it wouldn’t because our national security interests would be at stake and “all options would be on the table” because “ebola would have cross the imaginary red line”, so to speak. Has ebola crossed the red line?

If we bring that discussion back to the West Africa outbreak of ebola, “all options were not initially on the table.” What facilitated this kind of approach, that our response to ebola differs solely by where we live or where our interests are? Can we say for a fact, that ebola has crossed the red line and we [as humanity] needs to stand by each other and fight this disease to the end? Or will we isolate ourselves and seal our borders because what is happening in West Africa is not our business? Well, we could do that, but would that be effective? The answer, I am not sure, but probably not.

Also, I appreciate the US sending 4000+ troops to the infected regions. Well, what exactly would their role be since they wouldn’t be shooting bullets this time. There are theories suggesting that member of Red Cross are being kicked out of Liberia and other countries because vaccines they administer to people are ending them in their graves; thus, they are the ones spreading ebola, says these reports in Ghana and other countries. Whether these claims and accusations are true or false, right now people who are desperate and victims of this disease could more likely believe anything they hear and react negatively. So, let the role of the US troops in Liberia and other countries be clearly defined, because the world is now watching.

Source: WHO, 2014

Those at the WHO and UN who continue to use unnecessary excuses and blames to shift the global public attention from the true inequality of how their initial response to the outbreak facilitates the spread and continue to do so, are doing us no good and they should step down. The manner in which the WHO reacted to this ebola crisis would cause anyone to wonder if they initially knew about this well in advance, raising questions whether or not, they are clean? Because if they were clean, their actions would be better aligned to their words. Right now, both do not match at all and that makes people skeptical whether or not ebola is a hoax engineered by the US and spread through those who are vaccinated with a vaccine from Red Cross, says these reports.

Lastly, one thing we should all remember is that the lack of knowledge can lead to detrimental consequences. Stigmatization and discrimination are fueled by lack of knowledge. Some Africans are now being stigmatized or discriminated against because of showing some signs of illness that may not be related to ebola. Do yourself a favor and read to get to know more about symptoms of ebola and how you can help bring this madness to control.

If anyone has a hand in using their power to kill poor people to gain something, no matter your civility, you are a monster and there is no place for you and your government on this planet.