Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Don't stigmatise Africa!

Published:Sunday | October 12, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Curtis Campbell

African entertainment publicist, Olimatta Taal, has lashed out at the Ministry of Health and some entertainers for putting a stigma on the entire African continent, in the wake of the ongoing Ebola crisis.

Taal, who has worked in the reggae music industry for over 10 years, alongside Sizzla Kalonji, Tarrus Riley, Alborosie, Etana, Suns of Light, Kings of Kings, Dead Prez, D'Angel, BET J's Word, Sound, and Power, among others, says Jamaicans have all right to take the Ebola crisis seriously; however, the stigma on Africa has gone way overboard.

According to Taal, since Africa is a continent with over 50 different countries, it is unfair to paint the entire continent with one brush.

Taal, who was raised in Gambia and the US, says Ebola has been contained in West Africa. She also says some countries that have eradicated Ebola are hardly publicised by the media.

"There is no Ebola in my country, the Gambia. However, the Gambia is surrounded by Senegal, and they had one case of Ebola; however, it was contained and an article was published in the International Business Times last week that there is no Ebola in Senegal," she said.

"They are building a negative stigma against Africa and continental Africans. For example, I was reading a Facebook post from a media friend and they explained how someone (in Jamaica) had brushed their leg (against an African) and when they heard the African accent, they immediately feared being exposed to Ebola. Mind you, there is no Ebola in Jamaica. It is building a negative stigma and negative stereotype against African and continental Africans. We just did a major trip to Gambia and have been promoting building bridges between Africa and the Caribbean, and this Ebola situation has put a lot on pause. We won't let this stop the work and we will move forward very cautiously," she said.

Taal also regarded the potential Africa travel ban as being ludicrous, saying only the countries with severe cases of the virus should be placed under such extreme scrutiny.

"Africa is a huge continent, so large, you can fit all the continents in the world in Africa and still have space for more. The map has been distorted over the years, but you can research for yourself. So far there are only three countries that have been affected by Ebola in major numbers: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. How can you ban an entire Continent because of three countries? I think that there should be a ban to those countries that have Ebola, that would make more sense, and monitor to make sure more countries have not been affected," she said.

Taal also advised that the media and Ministry of Health should collaborate for an educational campaign, in order to properly socialise the public and prevent further stigmatisation of Africa. She also encourages the Ministry of Health to strengthen its prevention and screening measures at all borders in Jamaica, so as to prevent the virus from making its way on Jamaican soil.

"I think that as long as governments do what they need to do to educate the people and do all the things necessary to prevent Ebola, Jamaica can remain Ebola-free. I believe that Ebola is a man-made disease and is a form of biological warfare," she concluded.

Reggae artiste Luciano recently cancelled his tour of Africa, after receiving strong backlash from local fans on social media. Luciano was expected to perform in Malawi on October 19. However, a recent article published in the Malawi Nyasa Times newspaper stated that the country had suspected Ebola cases.

According to the publication, two refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo showed signs of the Ebola virus at Malawi's Songwe border of Karonga district. However, the refugees escaped from the care of health officials who had isolated them for further testing. The article also alleged that the Songwe border of Karonga district currently has two other Ebola suspects under quarantine. Those suspects also arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Jamaican Ministry of Health recently submitted a press release to the media, advising the general public and entertainers to avoid travelling to countries affected by the Ebola virus.

curtis.campbell@gleanerjm.com