Tue | Dec 6, 2016

EDITORIAL - Jamaica has moral responsibility to Ebola-hit nations

Published:Monday | November 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Correction & Clarification

The editorial titled ‘Jamaica has moral responsibility to Ebola-hit nations’ published on Monday, November 3, 2014 incorrectly identified Côte d’Ivoire as having been recently hit by Ebola. The third country was Guinea. We apologise for the error.

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Something has struck us strange about the response of Jamaica to the Ebola epidemic in the cluster of West African countries: a seeming lack of empathy and an apparent unwillingness to help.

This newspaper understands the fear of the virus that can kill up to 90 per cent of its victims and whose latest outbreak has so far claimed nearly 5,000 lives, the great bulk of them in the most affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. So, the public support for the Government's ban on the travellers from these countries is understandable. We don't expect ordinary folk to frivolously put themselves in harm's way.

Nonetheless, we believe that Jamaica - which used to pride itself as a leader among developing countries - has the capacity, and indeed an obligation, to do more - even if only symbolically. First, the vast majority of Jamaicans have their roots in that part of Africa, the region of the Gold Coast, from where most of the slaves to the New World arrived. In that sense, the victims of Ebola on the African continent are Jamaica's kith and kin, claimed in popular culture and strategically embraced as part of a geopolitical insulation against the buffeting by the powerful of the world.

Yet, in stark contrast to neighbouring Cuba, which has sent hundreds of health workers to the three worst-hit countries, and from which this country has sought help in crafting an Ebola plan, the Jamaican authorities have offered them nothing - at least nothing that the country has been told about.

A public declaration of sympathy is the least that the Government could do. Moreover, Jamaica, which has responsibility for foreign relations within the Caribbean Community, would be expected to be mobilising the Community to a shared response, including, possibly, medical assistance and/or logistical and security support.

At a private level, there is no sense of Jamaican health workers - neither doctors nor nurses - volunteering, like their counterpart in other countries, to work in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea. They, as one Jamaican doctor resident in Liberia told this newspaper, are needed and would be welcomed.

Nor are there any projects to raise money to help these governments finance their anti-Ebola efforts or for relief for the survivors of the disease.

ENTERTAINERS SHOULD ALSO STEP UP

With regard to the latter idea, Jamaican musicians/entertainers, especially dancehall deejays, should be at the forefront. They are often in the media boasting about their exploits in Africa - the adulation they enjoy and the large audiences at their concerts. They often wear their Africanness like badges. It can't be too difficult and be too much of a burden for such artistes to organise benefit concerts for the Ebola-hit countries and to contribute a portion of the sale of their albums or concert income to this project.

As the American president, Barack Obama, consistently tells his country, US assistance in fighting Ebola on the African continent is a strategic and pre-emptive act. Given today's global and fast systems of communications and transportation, if it is not fought, and stopped, in Africa, it will have to be confronted in the United States. And in Jamaica. And elsewhere.

Helping is the decent, humanitarian thing to do - especially for one's kith and kin.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.