Op/Ed By Kofi Quaye
Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola free. Recent media reports have indicated the country qualifies as being described as Ebola free on the basis of what it has accomplished in the efforts to contain Ebola, and stop it altogether.
According to media reports, no new cases have been reported within the past few weeks, or 42 days to be precise.
The people of Sierra Leone have every reason to celebrate the news. And so should the international organizations which rallied the call for help. They played a pivotal role in the process. The people of Sierra Leone couldn’t have done it by themselves, without the resources and personnel which were deployed to help tend to the infected, the dying, and the dead.
Eradicating the deadly disease from their midst is a huge achievement, and it has certainly been an epochal moment in their history. It’s one which has allowed the entire nation to heave a big sigh of relief. The nightmare is over. They don’t have to continue living with the fear of being infected, or killed by a disease which can’t be cured.
It wasn’t long ago the mere mention of the name Sierra Leone sent chills of terror down the spines of everyone around the world. Liberia, Guinea, and other neighboring countries had been described in the media as posing a similar threat to natives, as well as to visitors. The entire region of the western coast of Africa had suddenly been transformed into a zone for the living dead. During that time, anyone with plans to travel to that part of the world may have been putting their lives in danger.
Or, so it seemed, according to popular media. The media had done a very good job at reporting on the havoc wrought by the epidemic. Pictures of people in a zombie like state, and blood oozing from different orifices in their bodies had scared the living daylights out of people around the globe.
Popular media succeeded in projecting the image of a region which seemed to have fallen into the grip of a global catastrophe that was threatening to infect millions of people. And, implicit in the media’s reports was the suggestion the epidemic would spread to other parts of the world.
According to popular media, Ebola was unstoppable. The natives were clueless, totally unprepared to deal with it, and defenseless. It had been a hopeless situation. All they could do was wait to become infected, and die a slow, filthy, and brutal death, only to be buried like animals.
And, even with Ebola removed as an imminent threat from Sierra Leone, many unanswered questions still remain. Could the epidemic have been prevented? Could aid from the international community have been sent earlier? Also, if Sierra Leone can do it, why can’t Liberia, Guinea, and other countries do the same? Will the efforts to stop future outbreaks continue, once Ebola ceases to be in the headlines? Will the entire African continent ever be declared Ebola free?
While I can find no answers to these questions, there’s one thing I know for sure.
Reading about the declaration of Sierra Leone as Ebola free in the MINORITY REPORTER, an Africa-American media outlet, made a huge difference to me. It just seemed appropriate, relevant, and poignant in a way that reading about it in other media would have lacked. Hopefully, African-American media will continue to ask questions, and keep us all informed, not only about Ebola, but about other issues that directly or indirectly impact us here in America, Africa, and elsewhere.