Nearness is one of the qualities that make for news, that closeness which involves the reader physically or morally that he ceases to be indifferent. It is no wonder we often have a short attention span regarding news. To get us to pay attention, some editors resort to big font sizes or sensational headlines, lest they lose us completely.
Ebola was news months ago but for those outside Africa it was “far” news that very soon became a footnote on news channels. Not so now, because Ebola has arrived the United States. In the midst of the sorrow that is this disease here in Africa, it is almost amusing, though in a macabre way, to see the stricken horror among several Americans who are scared to the very marrow of their bones that what was previously far is now too close for comfort. That news footnote is now headlines all over the USA.
There is panic in the US following the news, first of the Liberian-naturalized American who died in Nigeria (the only case in Nigeria by the way), and lately of three American health workers who were in contact with Ebola patients in Liberia. One of them is fighting for his life. I find it curiously uncharitable that many Americans are questioning why their own citizens who have caught this disease should consider “bringing” it home. They should have, they said, remained back in Liberia, rather than bring it closer home. I guess they forget America is better equipped to treat the disease than Liberia. They forget that those coming home are Americans. Such is the dread of having anything disturb one’s comfort zone.
I pray for quick recovery for all infected persons. I pray and hope a cure is found soon for it breaks my heart to see what is happening in Liberia. The latest news is that its government has closed its country’s borders to prevent the spread of the disease outside the country. Nigeria recently banned some airlines from operating into the country, while other Nigerian airlines suspended operations into certain other ‘suspect’ West African countries. The result: Liberia has a semi-pariah status.
I feel their loneliness and wonder how such a poor country, recently out of a long and vicious civil war can fight this all alone. I hope the world does not leave them alone. I hope a world that now realizes Ebola is not an African disease and that has been forced to take the news out of footnotes and unto the headlines, will work together with Africa to find a cure fast.
Don’t point fingers. When you do, your thumb always points at your own chest.
Eugene Ohu is a journalist in Lagos and editor of Harambee.