Stories from Quick Reads and Guinea
Anna K. Mwaba discusses the future of the newly established African Center for Disease Control:
The establishment of such a center in Africa is not a particularly new idea; talks on the need for more effective means to combat epidemics on the continent were held in July 2013 at the Special Summit of the African Union on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, in Abuja, Nigeria.
In her opening remarks at that meeting, AU Chairwoman Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma emphasized the need for the AU to act and for “the final push” to tackle HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. These sentiments echoed those made at previous meetings on the matter. The fact that this was not the first time this issue has been discussed at such a high level, raised doubts as to the ability of the African Union to undertake such an endeavor.
Two main, and related, reasons for these doubts are the AU’s current financial capacity and the political will of its member nations. It is common knowledge that the AU faces significant funding challenges, compounded by the fact that many member states continuously fail to pay their annual contributions. This inability to contribute to the AU’s operating budget casts doubt on member state willingness to prioritize AU activities while facing their own domestic, often economic, challenges.
Wekesa Sylvanus hopes that 2015 will be a year of free and fair elections in Africa:
Since the advent of multi party democracy in Africa, electoral contests have become a do or die affair in majority of African countries. Elections in Africa are a high risk affair and in the recent times, they have been a trigger of conflicts. Kenya and Ivory Coast are good examples of how mismanaged elections can plunge a country into a conflict. Half a century after gaining independence, majority of African states have not got it right in terms of conducting and managing free and fair elections. The year 2015 will see a host of African countries go through elections. Presidential elections and/or legislative elections will be held in Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Togo, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Central Africa Republic, Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea, Chad, and Egypt and may be South Sudan depending on the peace deal to be signed. Most of these countries have struggled to institute the practice of democracy in recent times. 2015 therefore presents a great opportunity for them to show the world that they have matured democratically.
Guinea medical personnel are fearful following the death of 28 of their number and the hospitalization of 50 additional staff since September 17. Compounding this situation, the lack of protective equipment is so serious that medical gloves are being sold on the black market. Highlighting the atmosphere among care personnel, Amadou Tham Camara wrote the following on Guinea News:
Déjà traumatisé par la mort de six collègues au mois d’avril dernier, le personnel soignant de l’hôpital sino guinéen de Kipé est dorénavant dans une sinécure paranoïaque : les médecins refusent de soigner. Et tous les jours, ils maudissent le17 mars, ce jour où ils ont reçu ce patient venu de Dabola qui a contaminé neuf de leurs collègues.
Dans les autres grands hôpitaux nationaux de Conakry, des services entiers ne sont plus ouverts à cause des nouveaux cas d’Ebola détectés. Ainsi, depuis deux semaines, le service de réanimation de l’hôpital Ignace Deen est fermé. Le service gynécologique du même hôpital est barricadé pour les mêmes raisons. De même la maternité de l’hôpital Donka, la plus grande du pays, ne fonctionne plus.
Dans ce pandémonium, le paludisme qui reste le premier problème de santé publique en Guinée, avec plus de 30% des consultations, et la première cause de décès en milieu hospitalier(14%), selon l’OMS, a encore de beaux jours pour améliorer ses chiffres macabres. Tout ceci, à cause du silence feutré provoqué par le tintamarre assourdissant autour d’Ebola.
Entire departments are closed in the other national hospitals of Conakry due to new cases of Ebola being detected. The intensive care unit of Ignace Deen has been closed for two weeks and the gynecology department of this hospital is currently barricaded. The Donka maternity hospital, the largest in the country, is no longer in service.
Malaria remains Guinea's major public health problem being responsible for over 30% of consultations and the primary cause of death in hospitals according to the WHO. All this pandemonium ensures these macabre statistics have had ample opportunity to worsen. A deadening silence caused by the deafening panic about Ebola.
A social anthropologist and sociologist Ginny Moony explains how Ebola outbreak strips off Africans of their humanity:
The way West-Africans care for their sick and deceased, supposedly differs significantly from that of the rest of the world. This is far from true. All over the world, the essence of care for the sick is practically the same: the touching of sick and dead relatives is a natural phenomenon. All over the world the deceased are cleaned up and the body is neatly laid out so that family members and acquaintances can say farewell. In the Netherlands, we have the possibility to lay out our dead loved ones in our parlour for days. And physical contact with the body of the deceased will take place until the coffin is sealed and put into the ground or taken to the cremation ovens.
In the case of the Ebola affected countries, normal human behavior is dismissed as “old-fashioned and undesirable practices” by the World Health Organization and experts analyzing the Ebola outbreak. Nobody questions whether it is reasonable to deny people the care for their loved ones and the right to be in charge of the mourning process. The solution to prevent people from getting infected with Ebola is clear: no touching, under any circumstances. More empathic solutions, like the provision of protective gear to family members so they can bury their loved ones themselves or with guidance, are not being considered. The population is pushed into the corner; if they do not cooperate, they will go to jail. These harsh measures alienate the people from the authorities even further. Ebola is a punishment. Not for the international community, not for the politicians, not for the elite, but only for the poor masses. The people feel alone. Deserted. Huge amounts of money are coming in, more and more reinforcements arrive and still the epidemic wins more ground every day….
On June 16, 49 new Ebola cases, 12 of them deadly, were reported by the WHO. Bart Janssens, director of operations of The international NGO Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF)) released a statement saying that:
The epidemic is out of control, with the appearance of new sites in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, there is a real risk of it spreading to other areas. Ebola is no longer a public health issue limited to Guinea: it is affecting the whole of West Africa.
Since the onset of the outbreak in February 2014, 567 cases have been reported. 398 suspect and confirmed cases were suspected and confirmed in Guinea, 97 in Sierra Leone and 33 in Liberia. There is no specific treatment for the virus with a typical high death rate.
Guinean born and Italian citizen Abdoulaye Bah asks Ugandan blogger Prudence Nyamishana if Uganda can give Guinea their president, Yoweri Museveni, for only 10 years:
“You can have him for as long as you want.” I replied.
This was a conversation I had with Abdoulaye Bah my 72-year-old friend from Guinea during his visit to Uganda.
He was dead serious when he requested for President Museveni of Uganda for only 10 years. He is convinced that if Museveni became president of Guinea for 10 years, he would create a fundamental change. Who am I to argue against Adbdoulaye’s case?
This Guinean born and Italian citizen, former UN staff, retired journalist and current Global Voices contributor, first visited Uganda in 1975 and he says that a lot has changed. When he came with his wife, they stayed at the Sheraton hotel a place that was then reserved for only civil servants. Load shedding in the city was the order of the day.
In Defiance of Ebola Rumors, Support for The National Team at 2015 Africa Cup of Nations Spreads to Guinean Social Networks
Supporters took to dusty streets across the country to show their joy when the team qualified for the quarter finals, after a match whose result at the expense of Mali only came the day after the final whistle, when lots were drawn in a hotel room.
Guinea is one of the three countries most affected by the fever epidemic brought on by the Ebola virus. Although Morocco refused to host the African Cup of Nations due to the risks posed by the arrival of supporters from the infected region, it allowed the Sily National (National Elephant), the nickname given to the Guinean national team, to make their home on Moroccan soil for the preparation stages.
Drawn in a group where their chances of qualifying for the quarter finals were seen as minimal right from the start, they managed to knock out Mali against all expectations, after an epic match which ended in a draw. The two teams had to be separated by the drawing of lots in a hotel room the day after the match. For a nation with few opportunities to come together because of political difficulties and the hardship of the Ebola virus, everybody began to support the national team. Social network messaging went viral. It's a fever which has taken over a whole nation, and goes beyond the world of sport.
In a post titled “How can we explain the infatuation with Guinea's Sily National?“, a blogger called “cireass” analyses the reasons for this fever, on his blog Southern Rivers: A Look at Guinea, part of the mondoblog.org network:
Après une campagne de qualification délocalisée à l’extérieur du pays (au Maroc) pour cause d’Ebola qui frappe la Guinée depuis fin 2013, le Sily National de Guinée s’est qualifié non pas sans humiliation lors de ses déplacements dans des pays qui voyaient toute une nation porteuse du virus Ebola. De quoi ‘séduire’ plus d’un de ses supporteurs…
La dernière raison qui pourrait expliquer cet appui, ce sont les réseaux; précisément la tendance selfie. Oubliez la période où Internet représentait un luxe pour les Guinéens. De nos jours, en dépit du problème récurrent d’électricité, la plupart des personnes de la tranche d'âge 15-30 ans disposent d’un compte sur Facebook. Et la tendance du moment, c’est de poster un selfie avec un dérivé du Sily (maillot, bracelet, bonnet, etc.) sur Facebook, Instagram ou Twitter. Ces milliers de photos donnent l’image d’une équipe soutenue par tout un peuple.
After a qualification campaign relocated abroad (in Morroco) due to Ebola, which struck Guinea at the end of 2013, the qualification of Guinea's Sily National was not without humilation, as it was forced to decamp to countries as many of its neighbors regarded the whole Guinean nation as a vast carrier of the Ebola virus. This aggravation was certainly “attractive” to more than a few of its supporters.
Social networks are the final possible reason for this support, specifically the selfie trend. Forget the time when Guineans saw the internet as a luxury. These days, despite persistent electricity problems, the majority of people in the 15-30 age bracket have a Facebook account. And the current trend is posting a selfie with Sily National merchandise (shirt, wristband, cap etc.) on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Thousands of these photos create an image of a team supported by the whole population.
United Methodist Communications, Chocolate Moose Media and iheed have collaborated to produce an animated video for use in West Africa that helps dispel myths about how Ebola is spread and promotes prevention of the disease. United Methodist Communications provided partial funding for Chocolate Moose Media to create the video, which will be produced in various languages, including English and French with West African voices and other West African languages. This is an international co-production, involving production in ten countries: Canada, Guinea, India, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sierra Leone Switzerland and the United States.
“When will Ebola news go 24/7?,” asks a US/Canadian professor Crawford Kilian:
I have long been used to outbreak news dropping off on weekends. The media, government agencies, and NGOs all knock off on Friday afternoon and show up again Monday morning.
But after the last few weeks of Ebola, I'm losing patience with the folks who make a living covering the outbreak. Yes, good for them and the collective agreements that give them eight-hour days, weekends off, extended holidays, and excellent health benefits.
But if Ebola is as unprecedented as Dr. Chan says it is, how about finding the money to pay those folks overtime so Ebola news carries on over the weekend (not to mention statutory holidays)? Can you imagine news about Pearl Harbor waiting until some reporter sauntered in on the morning of Monday, December 8, 1941? Or JFK's death going unreported until the following Monday, November 25, 1963?
But the West African media, with a few exceptions, go into hibernation on Friday afternoons and revive sometime the following Monday. So do WHO and the other major health agencies. I know very well that they've suffered budget cuts by governments that still think austerity is the road to recovery from the crash of 2008.
An Ebola outbreak killed at least 59 people in Guinea and a few suspected cases near the Capital Conakry suggest that it may have spread to the Guinean capital. Barbara Krief provides the latest updates [fr]:
Au moins huit agents de santé ont été tués à ce jour. En collaboration avec le ministère guinéen de la Santé, l'Unicef a rapidement livré dans les zones les plus affectées cinq tonnes de médicaments et d'équipements médicaux tels que des gants, nattes plastiques, couvertures, protège-nez, et des solutions de réhydratation orale et intraveineuse pour protéger le personnel médical et traiter les malades
At least eight health workers have been killed so far. In collaboration with the Guinean Ministry of Health, UNICEF has delivered in most affected areas five tons of medicines and medical equipment such as gloves, plastic mats, blankets, nose guard, and rehydration solutions to protect medical staff and treat patients.
Here is a video providing information on how to protect oneself from the Ebola virus :