Why Africa Responds….
By: Ernest Danjuma Enebi
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Nov 5, 2014

The Ebola outbreak is too critical for us to watch from the sidelines. 

Ebola has claimed the lives of thousands of people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Just this week, the virus infected its 10,000th victim in West Africa. That number is projected to double by the end of November. Ebola has also weakened fragile health care systems, and in doing so, shed light on the need for stronger infrastructure and policies. Nearly overnight, a virus – not a coup, revolution, or complex political plot – has laid bare the fragile reality within which Africa Rising exists.

Africans are already responding to the outbreak. 

As soon as Ebola turned into an outbreak, local organizations began organizing their communities, providing education, care, and support. Africans in the diaspora have also responded with fundraisers and digital campaigns. However, we – as Africans – have yet to connect our independent responses and harness the power of numbers. Africa Responds, along with a number of other African-driven initiatives, are aiming to change this.

It is undeniable that too many front-line responders are doing the work alone.

While the news and travesty of the outbreak reached Western nations slowly, people on the ground have had to act with urgency and courage. Local communities have been at the forefront of the Ebola fight, a role they assumed out of necessity and with limited resources. Many have had to close their regular programs and operations due to lack of adequate resources, yet they have forged ahead with the Ebola response work despite being ill equipped, without proper training or equipment, and risking their very lives.

Ebola is a global concern. 

The implications of the Ebola virus affect us all. While the international spread of the virus is of limited concern, the stigma, hysteria, and fear that have resulted from the outbreak travels much quicker and lasts longer. Reactions to Ebola have surfaced age-old stereotypes about Africa and Africans across the world, as demonstrated by calls for travel bans, exclusion of African students from classrooms, and increasing stigmatization of Africans in workplaces and other public settings. We need outlets to channel our response more strategically and collectively.

It is our responsibility to help.  

Senegal and Nigeria have demonstrated what a rapid and effective, national response looks like and what it can do. On the other hand, national leaders in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, have proven themselves unable of eliminating the virus independently. While a call for international partnerships is warranted, this does not negate African action and leadership. We need to use this as an opportunity to fast track the rebuilding of these infrastructures so that they are more resilient than they were before the crisis. This means investing in African institutions, leaders, health workers, and systems. It means we become the investors and implementers of change.

Africans have the resources, numbers, and networks needed to launch a big movement. 

Before this crisis, the world’s narrative on the continent was one of “Africa Rising” – a continent home to 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies. This outbreak has exposed the fact that this rise is built on weak infrastructure. It is imperative that Africa responds to this crisis as a collective front. Too many times, crises like this one have drawn a road map to continued dependency on international assistance rather than the strengthening of local systems for better resilience. If this isn’t the right time for Africa to put its best crisis response foot forward, when will it ever be?



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