DECEMBER 8, 2014 By Ibrahim Abdullah
We have been fed with spurious racist anthropological crap that is now threatening to tear our beloved nation apart. Our so-called development partners are urging us to do away with outmoded ‘cultural practices’ that are seemingly hampering our individual and collective efforts against the deadly Ebola virus. What is wrong with our so-called cultural practices that have become the sing-song of NERC egged on by so-called experts from afar? Was it not the very CDC which urged us in December to tend to our sick compatriots at home because of lack of treatment centers? Is it not the very experts who compelled us to focus on alleged cultural practices, particularly burial practices, to bring the rate of infection to a minimum and eventually contain the spread of the disease? If after installing all their imported gadgets plus more trained hands and ‘boots on the ground’ figures keep spiking at a time when 95% safe burial has been achieved, what then is the problem?
To begin with, those who proffer easy and racist solutions informed by dubious anthropology forget that an individual has to fall sick before he or she dies of Ebola. And when they are sick they are home bound subject to home care surrounded by loved ones; arguably the key link in the transmission chain. Now to tackle the spiking numbers by putting premium on safe burial practices, which are supposedly cultural, is not only missing the point but undermining the very task we want to accomplish: Kick Ebola out of the MRU states.
The epochal and monumental challenge, make no mistake, is to get out there and yank the sick and infected out of wherever they are. To wait until they pass away and claim that meaningful intervention comes in only when they are dead is to mistake complacency for sound practice and to throw practical commonsense to the dogs. Commonsense, we know, has never been common. But if we really want to end the Ebola epidemic the time is now: a fourteen day lockdown to contain the spiking numbers in the new epicenters and put Ebola on the retreat.
Extraordinary circumstances, the President informed the nation, demand extraordinary measures. This offensive on home care is urgent precisely because Ebola thrives in congested and overcrowded situations with really no history or practice to serve as a guide. The new epicenters—Western Urban and Port Loko—constitute the two most urbanized and populous areas in the country. To allow Ebola to fester and supposedly run its course in the Western Area and Port Loko is not only suicidal and dangerous. It is tantamount to national annihilation.
The national lockdown in September, the EOC tells us, achieved a near 70% coverage of household in the country. If this figure is correct then another lockdown—particularly in the two urbanized and populous epicenters—should yield a 100% coverage since needed human resource will not be deployed to Kailahun, Kenema and Pujehun where the disease is seemingly under control. 2,116 new infections in nasty November and 292 for just four days in dreaded December is totally unacceptable.
The earlier we act the better are our chances of routing the deadly enemy. Let’s fight as one nation and defeat Ebola like we defeated the RUF: in the ghettos of Freetown! If we put Ebola on the run in the ghettos and overcrowded parts of Freetown, Ebola cannot beat a retreat back to the hinterland—it would eventually have to take the sea route where chances of survival are really, really slim.
Once more the guiding commonsense is simply this: don’t wait for people to die and agonize on imagined cultural practices to ensure safe burial. It makes a lot of sense to get in there and get the sick people out. Let’s do it for our nation; let’s do it for humanity! We survive the slave trade! We will survive Ebola!