178 days and counting

Ebola crisis: U.S aid late coming


MellaneoussquareThe Ebola epidemic brings us folks in the U.S. face to face with some stark realities about what we value. Let’s be clear, it is an epidemic. According to the World Health Organization there have been 4,300 cases and 2,300 deaths since the first case was reported six months ago. According to Dr. Michael T. Osterholm of Minneapolis, “the Ebola epidemic has the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done.”

The former head of the U.S. Center for Disease Control said recently, “The level of [world] response to the disease has been totally inadequate.” This brings us face to face with one of our most stark and disconcerting realities: We really aren’t that concerned about folks in the rest of the world, especially the so-called developing world.

This is even more so when applied to Black people, in this case Black Africans. I say so-called developing world, because the world that arrogantly refers to itself as the developed world clearly does not have a fully developed conscious or moral center. The “we” in this case includes myself and folks who look like me that call themselves African Americans, especially the African Americans whose heritage includes slavery. We may have to stop calling ourselves that because people with hyphenated designations usually indicate that there is still a connection, if only spiritual, to the mother country.

Black people — African American folks — have scarcely made a sound while standing aside like everyone else as a serious disease threatens to decimate the populations of a few West African countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Some of us still have the nerve to call ourselves Pan-Africanist but don’t ever lift a voice in the continent’s defense or challenge U.S. policy toward it.

In Minneapolis, the Liberian population has met and talked about helping their countrymen, but I don’t recall a single African American leader or clergy member saying, “Let’s get behind the effort to send bleach and gloves and medical equipment to Liberia.” So Black people have forsaken the continent and so has most of the U.S. population.

The bottom line is we just don’t care enough. We have given in to the propaganda that American lives are more valuable than other folk’s lives. More to the point, White folks lives are more important than other folks lives. And yes, I am aware that U.S. President Obama has now said he would send 3,000 U.S. troops, medical personnel and equipment to build field hospitals. Unfortunately this help is late in coming — 178 days late — and will take about a week to get all those folks set up on the ground in Africa.

If this government really cared about the so-called developing world it wouldn’t have taken six months to respond, especially in light of the fact that early this summer there were desperate and impassioned calls from local medical personnel in Liberia to send help. The help they needed at that time was simply basic medical supplies, disinfectants and bleach, and gloves and protective equipment, which, because of its scarcity, has cost many nurses’ and doctors’ lives. They courageously continued to try to aid their fellow man even at risk to themselves.

These brave men and women ought to be honored with a coordinated response by the world to help these desperate nations to fight this dreadful disease. According to Dr. Osterholm, the more the disease spreads the more difficult it becomes to combat and the greater the chance that it can become airborne, meaning that the virus could be transmitted through the air.

Let’s be honest: If this kind of outbreak had occurred in a small European country it would not have taken this long to respond. And everyone noticed the lengths the U.S. government went to save the two White American aid workers infected with the disease. They were even provided with an antidote.

Why is that cure not being developed? Could it be because there is no market with pockets deep enough? Now we are to the point that there are desperate calls by world disease experts to the so-called developed world to respond quickly to the Ebola crisis, a response that could already be too little too late for thousands of Africans.

In a NY Times article on the subject, Nancy Writebol, an American missionary who survived Ebola, said she hoped a silver lining in her brush with death would be increased attention to the plight of her “brothers and sisters in Africa.” She recognizes a sad truth about her own story: Without American victims, Americans might not care.

In the meantime human beings are dying, and by minimizing their lives we minimize our own.

Mel Reeves welcomes reader response to mellaneous@yahoo.com.