A Response to the Ebola Panel, Kevin Winnie ‘16

Attending the Ebola information panel and researching more about the Ebola virus, I have come to an understanding that the American and international response to the widespread outbreak has been nonexistent while Western media perpetuates stereotypes of Africa. As the Ebola virus has become more widespread across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, combatant forces in these countries are obstructed as leaders in the field of fighting Ebola have contracted and died from this disease, yet the United Nations refused to send these experts to receive treatment in Germany. Instead, the United Nations and United States have transported white Americans and Europeans, which illustrates, not only a preference for the lives of Westerners over those of Africans, but a racist response to a situation that is largely affecting more blacks than whites. This raises the question of whether the US, and by association the UN, should help these West African countries combat Ebola? All answers show that the US/UN helps nations that are in crisis if the United States has a vested interest in the state as we can see in the US intervention in Iraq, a nation that has a large amount of oil, or Vietnam, a country that symbolically represented the struggle between communism and capitalism during the Cold War. Hence, when these Ebola stricken countries seek help from the West, these nations receive a cold shoulder because they do not offer any benefit for Westerners in exchange for assuaging the devastating effects of Ebola.

While the response from the US and UN has been inadequate, the media perception of the Ebola virus is equally detrimental as media does not accurately reflect the extent of which Ebola will spread. Currently the Ebola virus is prevalent in three West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Other countries in West Africa, specifically Senegal and Nigeria, have effectively controlled the virus as their medical infrastructure is resilient and stable compared to the three other West African countries. Similarly, the mass spread of Ebola to the United States is improbable because the United States possesses the infrastructure to effectively control and eliminate the disease within the US border. The only exception to this was in Dallas, where the medical personnel mistakenly handled the situation.

The media’s presentation of the Ebola virus in these West African countries perpetuates the myth that Africa is a disease, impoverished continent. In the panel by African Studies, Professor Twagira showed images from the international intervention in certain West African countries. Often times these images portray medical personnel fully clothed in HAZMAT uniforms and West Africans half naked in hospital beds. These images from the media allude to Africa as poor, unstable and in dire need of Western assistance, which is not the case.

The response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has, not only been inadequate, but ignorant as the media represent this virus in an ill-informed fashion while the United States and United Nations lackluster response is equally uninformed and nonexistent. As hysteria in the United States about Ebola increases, one could only speculate that an international response for West Africa is less likely as Americans will want an intense focus on domestic cases that are generally minimal and controllable.

For more reading on the Ebola outbreak:



Examples of faulty images: