SEPTEMBER 10, 2014 By Oswald Hanciles
What is now universally acknowledged by ‘knowledge people’ is that to solve a problem in a sustainable way you have to know the symptoms of the problem, and, the source of the problem. You cannot wrongly diagnose a person who has typhoid as having malaria, and giving that person malaria drugs – the person could die. You can treat a person for malaria; but, if you don’t go to his/her neighbourhood to minimize the breeding grounds for the mosquitoes which infect the person with the malarial parasites (stagnant water; cups, coconut shells with water in them, etc.) you may have to be treating that person every three months for malaria; and his/her weakened immune system could cause his/her premature death. That lesson has to be utilized with the Ebola virus.
We know the symptoms of Ebola now…But the SOURCE of Ebola
Most people in Sierra Leone today know the symptoms of the Ebola virus infection – muscle pains; sore throat; high fever; violent scratching of the body; vomiting; ‘run-belleh’…. Thanks to the massive sensitization facilitated by government’s Ebola Operational Command (EOC), being supported by the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone, nearly ALL NGOs and CBOs, parliamentarians, and diverse ‘international partners’, etc. nearly all of us in Sierra Leone know what to do to avoid being infected with the Ebola virus: Don’t Touch!!! Don’t shake hands; or, embrace; or, kiss strangers, etc. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, and/or with chlorine water (Buckets with taps that have chlorine water in them are seen in front of every shop, every public building, every pharmacy; in most homes…in Sierra Leone today). We can be ‘Ebola Vigilant’ in Sierra Leone, bury the last person to die of Ebola, make sure that we are Ebola Free and Ebola Alert, and, still not be safe from the Ebola menace in Sierra Leone…. Why? We may have lost sight of the SOURCE of the Ebola virus. We may have failed to stretch our minds to fully fathom the NATURE of the Ebola Virus.
The SOURCE of the Ebola Virus
The Ebola virus is thought to come from fruit bats; humans are not its preferred host. But like HIV and influenza, Ebola’s genetic code is a strand of RNA. Think of RNA as the less stable cousin of DNA, which is where we keep our genetic information. It means Ebola virus has a high rate of mutation and with mutation comes the possibility of adapting. A U.K. virologist, Prof Ball argues: “It is increasing exponentially and the fatality rate seems to be decreasing, but why?…. Is it better medical care, earlier intervention, or, is the virus adapting to humans and becoming less pathogenic?…”
There is a relationship between how deadly a virus is and how easily it spreads. Generally speaking if a virus is less likely to kill you, then you are more likely to spread it… There is a danger there – comparatively more people are surviving the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone; so, fear of the Ebola virus could lessen; and people could be less on their guard. . The Ebola virus first ‘emerged’ from D.R. Congo in 1976!! Then, it spread to Congo, Gabon, Uganda, and South Sudan. There have been at least ten outbreaks of Ebola since it first made the transfer from bats to humankind!!!
Conspiracy theorists have been asking how come the Ebola virus jumped from D.R. Congo to Guinea, over 5,000 miles distance. Fiona McLysaght, the Country Director, Concern Worldwide, Sierra Leone, writes: “The Ebola cases in DRC are entirely unrelated to those in the West African nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal; and in fact, the cases in DRC are a completely different strain of the virus. …In fact, when a colleague of mine travelled to DRC in 2011, there was an Ebola outbreak in the east of the country at that time….” (Source – Ebola: Misinformation can spread like virus; http://www.irishexaminer.com/analysis/ebola-misinformation-can-spread-like-virus-285367.html)
The ‘West Africa Ebola’
The West Africa outbreak of Ebola started in Gueckedou in Guinea, on the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone in December, 2013. Gueckedou is 350 miles from the capital city of Guinea, Conakry; with a population of about 300,000 people, it is the second largest city in Guinea. Guinea has a land area of 94,926 square kilometers; with a population of 11,176,026. What that means is that if you put the land area of Sierra Leone (27,699 square kilometers) and Liberia (43,000 square kilometers) TOGETHER….they would still be LESS than Guinea’s land area. Guinea, where the Ebola outbreak started, has an Ebola infection rate today of 812 – with 517 deaths. Liberia which ‘imported’ its Ebola from Guinea has an infection rate of 1,871 with 1,089 deaths. Sierra Leone’s Ebola infection rate is 1,261; with about 500 deaths. Should we look into Guinea, the SOURCE of our Ebola outbreak?
Jaime Yaya Barry’s Visit to the SOURCE of West Africa’s Ebola
From Freetown to Conakry last week travelled Jaime Yaya Barry (the CEO of B-Trixx film company; and the man who did the filming for the video documentary I produced last year, ‘SALONE PROSPERITY’). He had gone to escort a white U.S. citizen to secure some travels papers in Conakry. Jaime told me that on the Sierra Leone side of the border there were about fourteen checkpoints from Freetown to Waterloo, through Mile 36….to Gbalamuya, Kambia District, on the border with Guinea. At each of those checkpoints there were tests on temperature being done by vigilant Sierra Leonean authorities; and, washing of hands with chlorine water was compulsory. This Ebola awareness changed dramatically as Jaime and his US partner moved into Pamalap, Guinean territory.
The temperature tests were casually done – or, absent. There was no chlorine water to wash hands. There were soap and water; but, it was not made compulsory. The Guinean military, police, immigration, and customs were more interested in collecting ‘fees’ that they gave them no receipt for, then, in checking for ‘Ebola suspects’. Jaime would explicitly ask them what they know about Ebola. They would treat his questions with levity; and/or, they would tell him that Ebola was a distant thing in the forest region of Guinea. Among the security officials, there was a lot of handshaking, and backslapping, and embracing – as if they never heard of the Ebola virus.
From the border town to the capital city of Conakry, Jaime said he never saw a single billboard warning about the dangers of Ebola. Just at the edge of Conakry, at a place called ‘Entag’, Jaime said their vehicle was slowed down by over 400 huge trailers loaded with goods. He was told that the trucks were delayed because of the closure of the Guinea side of the border, and they were preparing themselves to travel to Liberia and Sierra Leone. (To export just food and other items; or, to ‘export the Ebola virus’ again?). Even in the affluent area of Conakry, ‘Enville’, Jaime met owners of highbrow restaurants and drug stores who were far from Ebola vigilant as we are in Freetown – no chlorine water to wash hands!! As Jaime listened to two of Guinea’s radio stations – Radio ESPACE Radio; and a radio based in Kindia – he heard nothing of the Ebola virus. Why are the Guineans so lax about the Ebola virus which first struck their country?
Ebola Laxity in Guinea
It could have something to do with their vast country – which has an Ebola infection rate of just 0.1% death rate per their about 11 million population. (Sierra Leone’s death rate per our population is 0.28%; and Liberia’s is 0.07%). That should put death rate in Sierra Leone at about 1.75% per a 100,000 population. Put that figure in perspective, please!: the murder rate in New York city, US, is about 419 in 2012, which is about 5.1 per a 100,000 population. In other words, four times more people are being murdered in New York than are dying of Ebola in all three West African countries. Still, Ebola deaths are nasty business, not the ‘nice bullet in the head’ deaths of New York!!! Statistics, as cynics would tell you, often are big liars – huge swathes of New York are as peaceful and violent-free as Heaven itself. Not so with the Ebola menace – everybody within Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are vulnerable. And, the fear being injected by the Ebola virus is palpable.
Ebola Fear could cloud clear thinking
Fear clouds thinking. Are we closely monitoring the Ebola outbreaks in Guinea and Liberia? Time to completely overhaul, and ‘reconfigure’, how we ‘do’ foreign relations in Sierra Leone. Go down history lane. The ‘rebel war’ ignited in Sierra Leone in 1991 filtered in from Liberia. Was our ambassador in Liberia in the 1980s monitoring the ‘secret murders’ of Liberia’s President Samuel Kanyan Doe, and the careening of Liberia into chaos and anarchy by early 1990? Was the APC government of General Joseph Saidu Momoh doing ‘intelligence reading’ of what was happening in Liberia, and, taking security measures on them? No!!! The rest, as they say, is history….
History of our ‘rebel war’ years should teach us that Evil does not recognize our porous political boundaries. So, too, the Ebola enemy makes mockery of our political boundaries in West Africa. If Guinea and Liberia are not as Ebola Vigilant as we are in Sierra Leone, can we ‘help sensitize them’? We can. We must. When we open our minds, and use Ebola Money to establish in Sierra Leone a quality broadcast radio station (or, even T.V) that will cover the entire country, and beam messages to Liberia and Guinea…… The Ebola War is complex; and, demands that our leaders can fathom, and grapple with, complex variables. The Ebola War has an injunction: think out of the box!! Or, die!!! The SOURCE of the Ebola Problem is not just a geographical space called Guinea. The Ebola virus has been spreading because of our relatively ‘primitive mindset’…..: our conservatism; our chronic penchant for conformity. For the thousandth time I write, the Ebola War is only part a health or a medical phenomenon. It embraces health and communication, foreign affairs and economics, etc.