All US Peace Corps Members in Guinea-Conakry, Sierra Leone, and Liberia are being evacuated indefinitely — disrupting dozens of projects across the region — due to the current West Africa outbreak of Ebola. My friend is one of them and she is not happy about it.
Projects that have taken months of sweet-talking the authorities, grueling grant applications, planning every step of the way have to be left now – postponed indefinitely. Bags must be packed. Close of Service dates for volunteers preparing to leave will be moved up. Pre-service training has been stopped dead in its tracks for the recently arrived group of volunteers. Somehow, we must all find the words to explain to our friends and host-families the harsh truth that we are leaving and don’t know when we will be back.
In that post, she discusses how Western abuses and then neglect have led to a cycle that is fueling a major outbreak of the very deadly and horrible disease. Centuries of White Western doctors abusing non-white populations under their “care” the world over has fostered a great deal of fear of outside help.
The misinformation, distrust, and lack of education is unfortunate and causing this virus to spread, but it is not the fault of the Guinean people. The rich history of Guinea is pained by colonization, civil discord, military raids, failed communism and struggling democracy and has led to a general distrust of both the Guinean government and the Western world in general. The education system, 70% unemployment rate, and social structure sets people up for failure; there is nothing inherently unintelligent or incapable about Guineans. During my time here I have been constantly amazed at the rich linguistic intelligence I see on a daily basis — people are often fluent in 5 or 6 languages, while Americans struggle through their required 4 years of Spanish or French. Creative solutions and a tenacious energy run freely through villages and cities. Yet I fear that many back home reading about this outbreak imagine an uneducated country with religious zealots refusing to be treated. I imagine that these people cluck their tongues, sigh, and silently think that this would never happen in America. And they go back to their day without a second thought.
Ebola, she notes, is indeed a very dangerous disease, but Western media outlets are more interested in fostering fear and panic than in rallying crucial assistance. And they certainly aren’t interested in more mundane afflictions:
It was more likely, and still is, that people in Guinea would die of malaria or malnutrition than a deadly viral hemorrhagic fever. I remember calling my mother to dispel her fears. She’s a reasonable woman but even she imagined that I was living through some sort of ‘zombie apocalypse’ with infected patients roaming the streets looking to pass on their contagion.
“No, Mom. I’m OK. Everything will be fine as long as I don’t touch dead bodies and stay away from severely ill people, which I tend to do anyways.”
I encourage everyone to check out the full post for more insights.