Closer to Ebola, but still not worried



My first week in Rwanda, a few cases of Ebola were reported in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The chances of the virus infecting Rwanda were and still remain very slim.

The cases in the Congo were unrelated to the outbreaks in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. And, our director said, if Rwanda were to become infected, the American Embassy is only a few blocks away from where I have class.

We would be safe within the confines of the large, gated compound.

Even though I had only been there a week, I felt very connected to the people I had already met — friends, my host family and teachers.

Now, I’ve made even deeper ties to people here. If Rwanda were to have another crisis, I would be ushered quickly into safety, a guarantee, while the rest of Rwandans would be left on their own to deal with the problem.

I know that would have happened, because it’s exactly what happened in 1994 in Rwanda, when U.S. troops were sent in to save all American citizens, leaving thousands of people they could have saved to die in the ?genocide.

The Ebola crisis is a perfect symbol of our views towards Africa — we don’t care, unless it directly affects us.

I didn’t quite understand the extent of current American paranoia until I received the email from IU President Michael McRobbie, assuring students that IU is on it, despite the fact that the virus is nowhere near IU, and meanwhile it is estimated that 1 in 4 of his own students will be sexually assaulted on campus this year.

Let’s get our priorities straight. Ebola, from places President McRobbie chooses to call “West Africa” or the even broader “Africa” sounds scary, and a tangible virus is easier to fear than rape culture.

But these are not hypothetical people, or hypothetical cases. They’re not just news stories or statistics. They’re real people, in real countries that the media seldom mentions by name. Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are the countries hit the hardest.

I challenge everyone at IU to learn the names of these countries. If you’re still scared, educate yourself on the very real, very serious problems these countries are facing.

In December, I’ll be coming back from an African country, and I know I’ll have to face the half-joking, ?half-serious, “You don’t have Ebola, do you?” Never mind that Rwanda is about as close to the outbreaks as Seattle is to Philadelphia.

Even if Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea is halted, there will still be orphaned children and poor people left even poorer because of the halted economy and the fact that many of their possessions will have to be burned to prevent further spread of the virus.

They don’t have decent healthcare or savings to fall back on. They can’t camp out in the American Embassy when things are tough.

Your fear and concern is better placed elsewhere. Channel that into doing something good in the world.

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