The Fight against Ebola and the Conspiracy Theories

By Umaru Jah :

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The purpose of this article is to reinvigorate the analytical debates on the existence of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and the conspiracy theory ‘genre’ associated with it.

I want to hasten to strongly argue that such debates on conspiracy theories are distracting the fight against the deadly virus in a detrimental manner.

To all and sundry, I emphasize here, and with all my might, that contrary to those conspiracy theorists, the Ebola virus is REAL (capitalization on purpose) and its prevalence warrants extraordinary measures by respective governments and the citizens of the regions mostly affected.

Before delving into further details with regards to conspiracy theories and what I will describe as the “madness” associated with them, let me first of all highlight the gravity of the disease and efforts made by countries affected, especially Sierra Leone and international organisations to contain it.

The seriousness of the disease in West Africa and the threat it poses to the world at large should not be downplayed considering the number of lives the disease has and continues to claim in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Nigeria has as well become part of the affected countries with ten cases reported so far. In total, the World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show that the Ebola virus has affected about 1,884, killing more than 1,000 since the first case was reported in Guinea.

Such alarming and terrifying situation has prompted WHO to not only provide money to help tackle the outbreak, but also declared it as an International Health Emergency. The UN health agency has called for international solidarity because countries affected don’t have the capacity to manage the Ebola crisis on their own.

Additionally, WHO has further urged countries affected to step up surveillances in an effort to track down people who may have got infected with the virus in order to prevent its spread across the region and the world at large.

Complimentary to those efforts, the African Development Bank has agreed to disburse $50 million to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea as part of an international effort to contain the disease.

Meanwhile, countries worst affected especially Sierra Leone and Liberia have demonstrated the political and civil will to eradicate the disease. Specifically in Sierra Leone, in addition to the effective public information drive and tough measures the government is putting in place to educate its people about the deadly virus and its catastrophic consequences, hundreds of troops have been deployed in the far east of the country to implement quarantine measures. However, this does not prevent the free movement of health workers to and from affected communities to provide food and health care to the people.

The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Health has been consistently updating the general public about affected cases and people who have been discharged after recovering from the disease.

Mindful of the threats posed by the deadly virus, a Task Force has been established which is chaired by President Koroma – lending credence to the utmost urgency and seriousness his government attaches to fighting the disease. President Koroma strongly believes that the nation´s hard earned peace and stability is on the brink of being compromised if tough measures are not taken to fight the killer virus. He has even registered his resentment against the International Community´s “delay in responding towards the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.”

It is on the basis of the aforesaid that I think our primary focus at this moment of grief should be directed to how we as a people should help save the lives of those dying from the catastrophic virus. Clinging on to, and spreading wacky conspiracy theories is, in my opinion, tantamount to launching a campaign of deliberate mystification at the detriment of the suffering masses.

Let me make something very clear – the purpose of this article has not been to present a definitive critique of theories about the emergence of the crisis, but rather to re-emphasise and stress the need for people and nations to come together and support the fight against the deadly virus without being distracted by irritating theories.

As the subject of conspiracy theories is secrecy, it is bound to attract popular attention. While some theorists have claimed that Ebola is a biological weapon, others believe that it is a “CIA-manufactured weapon as a cover for “cannibalistic rituals.” Some people say “Ebola is a man-made, population culling agent that is intended to shift power into the hands of one governing body.”

These could well be figments of the theorists’ imaginations and signs of paranoia which at this very moment are counter-productive and uncalled for, especially when the consequences of the current outbreak are grave and disastrous.

Though many critics believe that conspiracy theories have played important role in human history especially in mobilizing opposition to fascist regimes, I argue that in this context, they are actually adding to the complexity of tackling the spread of Ebola. Put simply, distracting people’s attention from the fact that EBOLA exists poses serious threats to our nations across sub-Saharan Africa.

Whatever theories are there as to why such virus is unleashing terror on planet earth is of no significance as I write this piece. Instead, we should devote our energies towards mobilising resources for public information campaigns about the prevalence of the disease; provide protective gears, gloves and sanitizers to redeem our people from such an outrageous situation. People becoming more aware of medical risks and taking preventive measures are the most effective long-term, sustainable weapons to combat Ebola.

The interest of our people and nations should come first!

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