Sun | Dec 11, 2016

LETTER OF THE DAY - Don't broad-brush Africa with Ebola hysteria

Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir: I feel compelled to break my silence on my profound dissatisfaction with how the national conversation on Ebola has been unfolding.

In the October 8, 2014 issue of the Observer, for example, under the caption, 'Luciano cancels Africa gigs', I read with dismay that the Government of Jamaica has advised that the reggae artiste cancel his trip to Africa "until the Ebola epidemic has been controlled".

For Luciano, the three African countries that were to have been visited are Malawi, Ghana and South Africa. Further, we are told that the minister of health, Fenton Ferguson, "issued a warning to members of the entertainment fraternity, encouraging them to refrain from taking trips and tours to Africa at this time in light of the outbreak of the disease".

This blanket approach to an issue of such national and regional importance amounts to character assassination of the African continent - all too often wrongly depicted in media and academia in spite of it being such a vast and varied elephant.

The truth is: Africa comprises some 55 different countries and, as a continent, is about three times the size of the continental USA. How many times would that make for (relatively tiny) Jamaica - in spite of its being roughly half the size, population-wise, of the anglophone Caribbean? Do the math!

To lump together the three countries mentioned above, to wit, Malawi, Ghana and South Africa, and disqualify them all from a visit or a tour is palpably unjust and, therefore, unnecessary. The Ebola outbreak has been confined to West Africa, where Ghana is located, while both Malawi and South Africa are located way out east and south, respectively.

LESS GENERALISING ADVICE

The advice given for travel to the continent should be much more nuanced, justice-driven and less generalising. Luciano and others of his ilk should be discouraged, at this time, from travelling to West Africa. But, surely, Malawi and South Africa should not be included in that 'advisory' as well.

Given how tourism-dependent Jamaica and the entire Caribbean are in terms of our economic development, no one, for example, would dare discourage all tourists from visiting Jamaica, at this time, because of the outbreak of chikungunya - or discourage visits to the US because of a case of Ebola in Texas - or discourage all visits to Spain because of the outbreak of Ebola there. Would we? And, if not, why not?

GOSNELL L. YORKE

Northern Caribbean University