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Dereck Joubert on Ebola and Africa

EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Written by Dereck Joubert for The Huffington Post

Africa is a continent, not a country, and it is big! I cannot tell you how often I meet someone and tell them I am from Botswana, and they ask if I know so and so, “I think he lives in Uganda.”

There has been a wave of hysteria in the media about Ebola and how it is raging through Africa. I want to tell you that it is not! “The Killer African Disease” and other banner headlines in red with dripping blood graphics are unbelievable. So it is worth addressing some of this hysteria around Ebola and Africa.

First of all everything I say here is in the context of deep sympathy for anyone who has a family member or friend infected. At the same time, information about this, and every calamity is very important. To be of any use, it needs to be accurate and in context.

Africa is a huge continent that stretches wider than the USA, (4 350 miles versus the 3 400 miles of the USA) and twice as deep, from north to south, as the USA (4 500 miles versus the 2 600 miles of the USA). In fact the USA, China and Europe can all fit inside Africa’s landmass.

The USA is about 3.7 million square miles, Africa is 11.67 million square miles, more than THREE times larger. To suggest that one city or country in Africa is unsafe because another on the same continent has Ebola is clearly ridiculous. The virus is isolated to a few spots within very few countries in Africa: Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Africa has over 42 independent countries, each with its own economy, executive structure, language, health care systems, currencies, independent airlines etc. To travel between countries you require a passport, unlike the European Union, or states in the USA or even countries in North America. These are so uniquely different that cultures are different and even wildlife is so diverse that for example the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda have mountain gorillas, and yet 4 500km to the south Botswana does not even have mountains!

In the 36-year history of Ebola there has not been a single case in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, and in fact most countries, while there have been cases in the USA and Europe (Spain).

Many people are canceling travel to Africa as a result and out of fear of contracting the virus. Some prefer to avoid Cape Town, or Johannesburg, thinking that if it is in Africa, it’s trouble!

When in March 2014 Ebola raised its head again, countries like Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania put in place strict screening processes for all arrivals and in Botswana, it stopped ALL travel from West Africa to ensure that it stayed Ebola free. This move was made six months before similar conditions were initiated in the USA.

There are, as a result, more cases in the USA and Europe than in East Africa, (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) or Southern Africa, (Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland) as there has NOT been a single case in these regions.

There is US$200 billion-a-year tourism flowing through Africa, money that supports economies and communities which is often the only thing that keeps people above the breadline. If you ask anyone in Africa what is important to them it will be jobs, and the future of their children. Ignorance about Ebola can lead to an epidemic of poaching just to survive.

The isolation of Africa condemns Africans. The environment is intangible and irrelevant in a life where community, family and finally self is all important in a struggle for survival.

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