When we are talking about the spread of this virus. One needs to understand where society is at in regards to health. I have put together a few concerning factoids to help put things in perspective.
- 90% of the west African population eat out of the same bowl as 4-6 people 2-3 times a day.
- Maybe a third will wash with water only before eating.
- during my last visit to the national hospital there was no running water or soap to wash my hand in the room with 16 beds and 40 visitor
- i did find a sink was plugged intentionally so you could rinse with the water that was sitting there. At the time I decided I liked the germs already on my hands.
Even with all of this people don't seem to concerned about this topic. It doesn't seem to be a big deal.
Over the past three days I have been sharing living space with a friend who travelled from the heart of the Ebola epicentre. The thought of Ebola hadn't crossed my mind until the yesterday. No one here in the compound seems to concerned about it either as we eat together around the bowl.
For people here life goes on.
I'm sure ignorance plays a role here and there would be benefit and I have no doubt some improved basic hygiene and germ theory would go a long way.
Of course this is in constrast to the ignorance of some westerners who would chastise anyone for even travelling to the continent. This show a lack of knowledge of the kind of scale or the difficulty and limited travel with-in the Africa context.
Perhaps the greater influence in the lack of ebola-phobia is the simple statement from the human condition which says "what else are we supposed to do".
An estimated 1.3 million people die in car accidents every year - yet few hesitate to get in their car and drive to work everyday. Why? What else are you supposed to do?
Risks are a reality of life it just so happens the odds are worst and stakes are higher.
Africans are so adapt at 'risk apathy' that many get voluntarily in migration to Europe. There is one word spoken frequently here. Its powerful enough to empty communities of its young men... Lampaduza, the Italian island. If you haven't read any report on the migrant criss do take time to read this one.
The stories of men getting thrown overboard are chilling (particularly knowing Africans can't swim) - however the same man from Ebola land staying with me also attempted the trip to Europe "the back way" in 2006 and said he saw 7 men be thrown overboard for complaining. (He never made it - he spent time in a camp in Morroco
Now I know 8 or more young men from my small circles of contact who have left and another half dozen or so who have at least tried. These are people who are pursuing this treacherous journey as I write. One boy I personally sponsored to finish his grade 12. (Kind of disappointed)
This is hardly a new thing but now the rate of departure is incredible. Many of these people are not coming from woefully oppressive or poor situations. And it is important to understand it is not just the individuals, parents and families members are putting resources together and are selling land to send their boys. It is to the point that you can sense and see the difference just by walking the streets.
It is to the point girls are complaining there are not enough boys to go around.
Young men are equipped with funds (minimum cost to get to Libya have been reported around $1000 and then another similar amount to get on the boat), given information on contacts and instructions for the route and even taught how to out smart the systems in the western migrant camps. (Destroy your documents, Claim you are under age, lie about your originating country, inflict injuries upon yourself)
It is a madness fuled by the western entertainment/media industry and catalyzed by Lybia's organized crime networks. Currently, I fear things will be worse before they get better.
I have much more to write about this 'hot topic'. I hope to cover more in an upcoming post.