I am #AFRICAN. Not #EBOLA | By Gerard Amani

I believe that we have all heard of Ebola. Do we really know much or understand the disease? Since the outbreak in West Africa (Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia) early this year, every time I now hear of Africa it is because of Ebola. Before Africa used to be in the news because of famine, wars, or terrorist groups but I guess the world media has found more exciting news, Ebola. I am not against media breaking news about Ebola but I’m against them not giving much information to the public. The media are only causing panic about every single case of Ebola and Africans who are traveling abroad. Have you heard about the Ghanaian student who was arrested and humiliated in Czech Republic for fear of Ebola? Ghana has not even been in the news as one of the countries with the outbreak. I blame this for the media’s lack of knowledge about the disease, and inability to properly educate people. Most world media have labelled Africa as Ebola. “A Ghanaian student in Czech Republic arrested, forced into a suffocating black polythene bag, wheeled away in a trolley and dumped into a bus has tested negative for Ebola, the Ghana Mission in the Czech Republic has confirmed.”

Before I continue, let us go back in history and learn more about Ebola and where it came from. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.” Now that we know the origin of Ebola, the next question might be, how is it transmitted? “Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.”

Senegal and Nigeria are now Ebola free. There were also cases and deaths in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but since early this month, there have not been any new cases reported and DRC hope to declare that it is Ebola free. As we can see, nations are reporting great news in successfully handling Ebola. As I speak, thousands of people have been affected and died in Guinea, Sierra Leona and Liberia. But these are not the only countries which are affected. The whole of Africa is affected in different ways. Many people outside are reported to be cancelling plans to visit Africa, the economy of those 3 respective countries has taken a down fall, and once again Africa’s image has been destroyed. We are warriors and survivors. With determination, nothing can stand in our way of achieving greatness. The African DNA is very strong and soon this deadly disease will pass, but we have to do it with solidarity.

My people at home and in the diaspora are deeply affected with stigmas and false perceptions. There are many stories throughout the internet about personal stories. For example, when the Sierra Leona football team played to qualify for Africa Cup few weeks ago, they were humiliated and were the subject of discrimination because of Ebola. “It’s really difficult, it hurts. Most of us are not living in Sierra Leone at the moment, but we have family there so this outbreak is a very personal issue. It is probably one of the most painful experiences that I’ve gone through as a footballer.” I hereby call onto Africans to stand by each other’s sides and fight this disease together instead of discriminating. If we are not careful, Ebola will break us apart. We are all from the Motherland and it doesn’t matter whether it is East, West, South, North or Central Africa. When a friend in the diaspora heard that I was writing this article, she passionately said, “…what we as Africans are going through is tough! Teachers aren’t accepting us in class, we can’t get into buses and being in public is dangerous! #scaredtodeath!!” (McNdinda, 2014)

The stigma about Ebola is not happening only in the diaspora, but also back home among fellow Africans. What happened to Ubuntu, humanity? It is time that we come together and join force in making awareness and letting those in Guinea, Sierra Leona and Liberia know that they are not alone. And to those countries which are closing their borders and making general conclusion, what if tomorrow is your country that is affected? Will you expect the world to have its borders open and to come and help you? Do onto others as you would like to be done for you. Dear world; the whole of West Africa does not have Ebola, and neither does the whole of Africa.

I stand here before you today as a PROUD AFRICAN. I AM AFRICAN. NOT EBOLA and I stand tall with my people in Africa and the diaspora to fight and make awareness against this deadly disease. I don’t know about my fellow Africans everywhere, but I have an image to protect. Africa is rising, but we just have to get through this before we can continue with our path of fighting and enhancing the lives of all Africans for a better and promising future. Ebola is not just an African issue, and people should care more instead of discriminating against Africans. Many people are surviving through this disease and some countries have been reported as Ebola free. With the help of fellow Africans and the world, I am optimistic that the remaining countries will also soon declare that they too are Ebola free. There is great strength in unity.

Love, Peace & Unity
One People, One Africa, One Love

Banner photo courtesy of John Poole

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