The last two weeks have not been a beautiful one on the global backdrop. The war in the Middle East and the gradual ravaging of lives in the West Africa sub-region are some of the ongoings. The latter is fearful especially as the World Health Organisation’s chief has said that “Ebola is spreading faster than the effort to control it”. Nigeria has also shared a spotlight on the news stream about Ebola following the unfortunate death of Mr. Patrick Sawyer who apparently had contracted the Ebola Virus Disease from Liberia. His primary contacts while enroute and within the country (69 of them) are suspects and would likely determine the fate of Nigeria as to if the virus would make an incursion into our country. If anything, no one wishes Nigeria this ill fate. On social media space, awareness about the deadly virus is strong enough. With two major hashtags – #Ebola and #EbolaOutbreak, the preventive measures with which to prevent the virus is enjoying a viral spread.
The Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku has also claimed thus – “we started the public awareness campaign even before the unfortunate victim came into our country. If you listen to radio and Nigerian television stations, you will hear the jingles about Ebola Virus Disease and the general care that Nigerians must observe in order not to contract the disease.” The National Orientation Agency has also pushed out information in social media space. Relative to what the about 170 million population of the country and the more threatened 20 million residents of Lagos, this is not enough. The information seems to remain within the elite. The awareness is not public enough for one to hear about #Ebola on every street turn. There are no elaborate measures in summer schools and homes where children now are given the holidays. Mallam Salisu in Kabala Doki, Kaduna perchance is yet to connect with the deadly nature of this virus. Chika, the vulcaniser on Independence Layout Road, Enugu still does not get the picture of what this virus whose cure is not known is capable of.
It is to the credit of citizens of the global village on the citizens of Nigeria that some level of awareness has been possible. While the effort of government at containment may be decent, efforts at awareness still remains faint. Both local airports in Lagos for instance have no message for the teeming population who throng the place daily. It is sad that despite the knowledge of the disease at least in official quarters, a huge slip still happened; a corpse in cargo form was moved into the country and it ended in Oyi Council Area of Anambra state. That Nigeria knew the West Africa region was threatened by the virus and still had no containment plans so much that the late Sawyer literally strolled into the country is bad enough.
News about bitter kola’s efficacy in taming the virus continues to grow in online space, I am sure the average seller of the nut would possibly wonder why there has been a relative surge in sales. I am not sure government has come up with a clear position on this. The internet can be a monster of catholic dimension occasionally – feeding to its users what is available without being mindful of source. The private cyber initiatives offering infographics on prevention is brilliant and deserves commendation. This website carries information in an easy to read and way. This is something government should replicate and send to all places. Like the farmer in Modakeke Ife, I am yet to get a text message sponsored by the Ministry of Health with information in a local language about this disease. Like a number of others, I am scared at our somewhat flippant handling of the implication of a spread of this virus. This is however not to discountenance the effort of virologists and epidemiologists and other related committed hands who have hitherto been risking their health for ours. Lagos State stands tall in all of this and its request for a special state status should be seriously reviewed. It rose up to the occasion following Sawyer’s case. Its law on voluntary cremation also seems to have had some clairvoyant knowing a day like this would come. Bats, Monkeys and other bush meat are known to be carriers of this virus. I am not sure there are words out there to places like Ile-Ife where the bat population is huge. It is still business as usual on a number of highways in Nigeria as bush meat are still being sold.
The preventive advisory has also included discontinuance of the consumption of grilled meat/Suya especially since the source of the meat atimes could be doubtful. Nothing has changed on the streets of Nigeria. Suya is still a premium meat. Knowing how poorly how government value lives, it would be needless to inquire what the Nigerian Embassy in Sierra Leone and Liberia, two countries that have been hit measurable by the lethal virus, has done to protect the life of Nigerians living in these countries. The United States has again shown to its citizens it can be counted on, following its evacuation of two sick Americans to a treatment isolation centre in Georgia. It is not too much if a country where $10 Billion can get missing makes sanitisers available in most if not all public places.
The report is that more than 1,300 people are infected and 700 dead in three countries in West Africa. As it is now, the ‘children of anger’ on social media need to continue contributing to save the country. We need to aid government in finding how information on prevention can seep into rural communities. Meanwhile, may the soul of #DrSheikUmarKhan who gave his life protecting people from #Ebola scourge in #SierraLeone continue to rest in peace.
One More Issue:
Climbing for #DownSyndrome
If you have a relative with Down syndrome or have seen someone suffering from the challenge, you will understand why it is an important issue. People with Down syndrome usually have an IQ (a measure of intelligence) in the mildly-to-moderately low range and are slower to speak than other children. People who suffer from Down syndrome are relegated, denigrated and stigmatised on the basis of some retrogressive myth and tradition.
Between 16-23 August 2014, 10 African professionals will undertake a charity climb for to Uhuru summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Kenya. Ultimately, the idea is to raise awareness about this and also raise funds for Nigeria’s Down Syndrome Foundation to continue its good work. 6 people have been confirmed for the trip. See more discussions through #Climb4DS. There is also more information on this charity campaign.
Sola Fagorusi is a youth development advocate, freelance writer, accomplished debater cum coach. The Obafemi Awolowo University graduate has about 10 years experience in social entrepreneurship which straddles leadership, good governance cum anti-corruption and adolescent reproductive health. The Leap Africa alumnus is also a trained peer educator, a DESPLAY alumnus and co-facilitator. For 2 years now, he has been a technical consultant and lead judge on the Intra-Faith Peace Youth TV Debate Project facilitated by Youngstars Foundation and the British High Commission. To read his full profile, click here.