(GIN)–An airlift of emergency supplies needed for those treating Liberians with the virus Ebola was launched this past weekend by the U.N. children’s fund–known as Unicef.
“The largest component of the supplies was chlorine,” for disinfection, said Unicef’s representative in Liberia, Sheldon Yetts.
Other supplies in the airlift were oral rehydration salts and sodium lactate to help ensure people are rehydrated, and about 900,000 gloves for infection control.
“Health workers have suffered a disproportionate number of casualties from Ebola,” said Yetts. “We need to make sure that health centers are disinfected and that people in Liberia feel safe to return to health centers.”
Ebola, say some experts, is much less contagious than other more common diseases. The virus, much like HIV or hepatitis, is spread through blood or bodily fluids and is not airborne. Still, some countries in Africa are rejecting the World Health Organization’s advisory and are slamming their doors on visitors from West Africa. Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are banned from entering South Africa. Citizens returning home from these areas must undergo a strict screening process, a health ministry statement said.
Senegal has closed its border with Guinea, while Chad closed its border with Nigeria.
Air Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria’s Arik Air, Togo’s ASKY Airlines, British Airways, Emirates Airlines and Kenya Airways have together cancelled more than 200 flights to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Kenya Airways froze routes to Liberia and Sierra Leone after Kenya’s ministry of health called the Ebola outbreak “vastly underestimated” and that is was “expected to continue for some time.” Only Brussels Airlines and Dutch airline KLM say they will continue flights.
“Travelers are highly unlikely to be infected with Ebola, which cannot be transmitted under normal hygiene conditions”, said KLM.
With apparently conflicting health advisories sowing confusion and fear, a Zimbabwe blogger penned her concern that the upbeat picture of “Africa Rising” was getting a black eye. Writing in the Mail & Guardian’s Voice of Africa, blogger Fungai Machirori observed: “Over the last few years, meticulous work has gone into crafting the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative–namely rising economies (like South Africa and Nigeria), tech and innovation (think Kenya) and the growth of a middle class we might call ‘post-African’-savvy, urban, cosmopolitan with no flies to swat off their faces and no begging bowls in their manicured hands.
“While the statistics do point to a truth, another truth still prevails,” she cautioned. “Across Africa I have seen the consumerist dream (high-end malls, cars, mansions and general financial exuberance) coexist with abjection, poverty and depleted social services. The rich do exist, but they are not the majority.
“The spread of Ebola shows up the Africa Rising narrative …Quite instantly, Ebola has become ‘the great leveler’ among Africans, re-perpetuating stereotypes of barbarism and savagery; that Africans eat ‘strange foods’ like fruit bats and bush meat and other ‘filthy creatures’, that we are unclean, diseased and therefore dangerous.
“Ebola has opened up the way for the ‘dark continent’ narrative to re-emerge, if it ever really disappeared,” she said. “Africa is collapsed into one territory, one country, one race, even if the fatality of Ebola represents about 0.15 percent of the continent. A dominant global hysteria has emerged that lends itself to racial profiling and generalisations. I’m wondering how far, if at all, the discourse around blackness has progressed. At the same time,…
“Ebola is serving to deepen regionalism (west Africa versus the rest of Africa) and the dangerous sort of nationalism that has often led to ineffectual collaboration across the continent…
“If Africa–given its wealth of human and natural resources–cannot contain Ebola, then we must sober up and accept that we haven’t risen to where we should be, given the accompanying discourse of booming economies and commodity markets.”
(Editor’s note: Fungai Machirori runs Zimbabwe’s first web-based platform for women, Her Zimbabwe, and is an advocate for social media.)