By Sara Osman
We’ve all probably heard it. That joking comment someone now makes whenever anyone in the vicinity sneezes or coughs. It must be Ebola.
All across the United States, hysteria and misinformation is being spread rapidly. The Ebola virus seems to have everyone conscious of his or her health. The recent death of the man infected with the virus in Dallas, Texas only helps spread the pandemonium.
With all this mass confusion, many are not aware what they are up against exactly. The Ebola virus disease is a very infectious and generally fatal disease. It is spread through contact of bodily fluids and is not airborne.
There have been previous Ebola outbreaks but this most recent one is the deadliest and most severe one to date. To date, there have been approximately 9,200 reported cases and approximately 4,500 deaths.
In all seriousness, the illness is not being handled in a manner that is of the utmost urgency. Thousands of people have died and yet we share Internet memes that make a laughing matter of such an issue. The deaths that have taken place are not being respected nor honored. We do not joke about illnesses such as cancer so why is Ebola any different?
If Ebola were to affect areas such as Western Europe or the United States the way it is now spreading in West Africa, would there not be a movement to assist and make folks aware about the tragedy this illness leaves in its wake? The areas affected now are ones that suffer from immense poverty and disparities. This is a humanitarian crisis yet no one is making the necessary moves.
The disease is thought to have begun first in Guinea and then spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. Small outbreaks have also occurred in Senegal and Nigeria.
Minnesota has a fairly large West African community with about 45,000 people from the region and the countries listed. Many have lost family members to Ebola. Minneapolis Community and Technical also has a large population of West African students.
The African Student Continental Club (ASCC) is a student group at MCTC that is geared to towards promoting solidarity and unity amongst African students on campus and any one else who chooses to join.
A large number of the members of the ASCC are from the West Africa region and many from countries that are now affected by the Ebola epidemic. One such student is Phoday Fandayson who is from Sierra Leone.
Fandayson came to America to study and better his future for himself and his family. He is very deeply troubled by what is happening in his home country. Sierra Leone is one of the countries that have been hit hard by the spread of the disease.
His hometown, like many in Sierra Leone, is very susceptible to the virus as there are not many places people can turn to for help. Many of the towns and areas affected and where the disease has rampaged are areas of extreme poverty.
There is limited access to running water. Hospitals are understaffed and lack the medical supplies and the capacity to assist everyone that comes looking for help.
“People are being rejected from treatment facilities and officials are saying there is no longer any more space in the facilities for sick people,” Fandayson explains.
A phone call earlier this week informed Fandayson that 120 people have died in a single day due to the disease. He grows fearful for the safety and well-being of his family.
“They need to stop the disease from spreading. People need to help them survive,” he said.
He believes that more people need to realize the severity and the magnitude of the issue at hand. As more lives are lost, Fandayson believes that people need to show their support.
One group in Minneapolis is doing just that. On Oct. 16, there was a rally organized by the Young People’s Freedom and Justice Party to show support for the suffering the people in West Africa were going through. The group demanded that resources and supplies be sent to those in need overseas.
The group plans on hosting a second rally on Oct. 30 to further gain support and raise awareness on the happenings in West Africa.
With all eyes on West Africa, many of the students in ASCC are concerned that this recent epidemic will lead to people stigmatizing and stereotyping West Africa and its people.
The West African students and the West African population in the state will be anxious to receive more information as details start to surface as to how the situation in the affected countries are being handled.
If more people choose to care about more than their own bubble in the world, Ebola could be stopped in its tracks. But for now, it continues to spread and innocents continue to die. The world waits to see what will happen next. Only time will tell.