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Why the Ebola Scare has raised Serious Questions about International Aid, and Media Coverage of Africa

kofi_quayeOp/Ed by Kofi Quaye

Most of the recent hype about the devastation, and havoc, caused by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa appears to have had a huge impact on the psyche of the general public in America, and the rest of the world.

It most certainly has succeeded in scaring the heck out of people.

Pictures and stories in print media, and on television, have revealed the scope of the problem, and portrayed the situation as nothing short of a disaster of apocalyptic proportions.

The spectacle of heaps of dead bodies has shocked, and repelled, people all over the world.

In addition, the victims, both the dead and the dying, have appeared to have depicted human suffering at its worst.

With no hope of being cured, the dying men, women, and children have simply seemed to have been drained of the will to live; yet they have had to endure the pain and misery preceding their deaths, succumbing to the disease after going through a period of failing health and pain.

“A slow descent into hell,” would be one way to describe it.

Subsequently, media reports appear to have suggested West Africa has been hit hard by the epidemic, and on such a scale that the very survival of the region has been at stake.

The media has shown it to be nothing short of a hopeless case.

At least, that was how it had been presented in the beginning.

I believe Ebola has inspired so much public fear, and despair, for one reason.

It essentially has been described as untreatable.

Once infected, an individual’s death has been almost a certainty, unless, as in the case of non-Africans, intense and highly specialized medical attention immediately has been available.

In addition, in the background, and cited as major contributing factors, have been the tribal conflicts; corrupt governments; inept leaders; and inadequate, or no, medical supplies or facilities typically associated with the African countries.

As a result, the picture which has emerged has been one of a region teetering on the edge of total disaster.

And, the question, then, is no longer ‘How severe has the Ebola epidemic become?’

It is, ‘What can be done to stop it from getting worse, and, indeed minimizing the damage that has already been done?’

That Ebola has continued to become a threat is beyond question.

The questions that have been raised, and for which no answers have been given, however, tend to have related to what, and, if any, realistic and serious efforts have been made to find a cure, and develop a vaccine.

Popular sentiment has tended to lean toward the notion that a cure can be found, and a vaccine can be developed.

However, I don’t think it has happened yet, because the Ebola epidemic has not been a top priority for global business, legislators and most leaders around the globe.

An epidemic in West Africa cannot be made into such a major issue of concern for other countries.

In addition, the success stories regarding people of other races who have become infected with the epidemic, and survived, have provided a degree of validity to those assumptions.

Although they have been isolated cases, the majority have not died; they have been saved.

However, most of the Africans who have gotten infected have died.

The question then becomes: Is Ebola less of a threat?

I don’t think anyone knows the answer.

However, the good news may be, it has not been capturing screaming headlines like before.

And, recent media reports have indicated  it has been on the decline in Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Fewer new cases have been reported in the same areas that had been ravaged before.

However, ultimately, the African-American community should not be expected to react any differently than most have.

African Americans have had a whole lot of skepticism when it comes to reacting to the Ebola tragedy.

In spite of all the hype about an international response to help Africans to deal with the crisis, most African Americans have held the belief that Ebola-related research has not received enough funding; which largely has been due to a lack of interest shown by pharmaceutical companies, for whom a rural, uniquely African disease may present no lucrative market.

It also has been common knowledge that the African-American community has gotten the same kind of coverage in this country, pretty much.

For instance, there have been dismal statistics which have pointed to an inordinately high level of HIV infections, and HIV-related deaths.

Consequently, most African Americans have not been surprised that Ebola is getting all that hype.

It had been the same story when AIDS first surfaced, and the media hype focused on Africa as the source.

Add to that the fact that many blacks are also aware of the government’s exploitation of African-Americans for the purposes of medical experimentation in the past.

There have been many books and articles written on the topic.

The victims were lied to, tricked, forced and coerced into participating in experiments, without their consent, and often without their knowledge.

So, it’s been no wonder conspiracy theories have, again, seemed to be gaining ground.

Ebola has not been an American, or European, problem.

The disease basically has only remained a threat to Africans in West Africa, for now, or so it seems.

It has even been suggested by some of this country’s more strident African-American critics, that Ebola is a man-made virus, and has been designed as part of a plan to de-populate Africa.

The reality, though, is that it has already become a global problem.

And, whatever the case may be, the world’s leaders know it has the potential to spread; especially if a realistic and concerted effort is not made with the full backing, support and involvement of the international community.