The outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in the West Africa sub-region region continues to take its toll on the lives of many people, creating more questions than answers as to what could be urgently done to contain it sooner rather than later. More continues to contract and die of the disease, yet no certain cure is known about a disease that has apparently threaten humanity more than any other calamity including wars and storms.
The disease has currently killed 1,552 people from among the 3,069 cases reported so far in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria; the latest figures of the World Health Organisation have shown. The said agency said more than 40 percent of the cases have been identified in the last three weeks and that ”the outbreak continues to accelerate.”
The Republic of Senegal is the fifth West African nation to be hit by Ebola after a 21-year-old Guinean student travelled to the neighbouring country from his home, epicenter of the disease. The reports of this case in Senegal have since been met with mixed reactions in The Gambia, the closest neighbour, which is sandwiched by the two halves of Senegal. The country is yet to hit by the disease, but many analysts said Gambians really have a cause to be worried about Ebola presence in Senegal given the porosity of its borders to the neighbouring country as well as the highly inter-related nature.
These two countries are one of those that share almost 90 percent of everything ranging from culture, ethnicity, way of life, and above all the same people. For many Gambians, a Senegal-free-Ebola was the nearest shield to The Gambia, but confirmation of the disease in that country has caused enormous discomfort among them. Such factors have been triggering intense campaign on the social media, especially
through the platform of “Ebola Free Gambia”, launched by a few concerned activists.
“The “Ebola Free Gambia” campaign team is proud to say that a week of video campaigns has truly been enlightening for many. With it being the first phase of a multi-phase campaign, the aim was to raise awareness on the existence of the disease and the fact that even though The Gambia is currently free of the virus, we must all be in the battlefield to fight this deadly disease,”
… reads a statement posted on the group’s official Facebook page. But even at the individual level, campaigns have been intensified by people from all walks of life – media celebrities, musicians, philanthropists, advocates and so on, all geared towards making so that The Gambia is indeed spared from a disease estimated by the WHO to infect 20, 000 people.
One of those artistes who took it upon himself to sensitise people through videos is Shorty Jammeh, a Gambian based in the Scandinavian country of Sweden. For this artiste, Africa and Africans have…
“… waited so long for this virus to come back after its outbreak a long time ago. There should have been research on this virus and possible ways to have a medicine or vaccines for it when it was last detected in Central Africa,”
“But no! No one cares; everyone is busy on politics and other disturbing issues that are not as deadly as Ebola. After the outbreak, everyone forgot about it and people were not sensitised it or forums were not convene to find solutions. Now that it came back, unfortunately, very late to talk about it or educate people about it.”
The artiste said sensitisation needs to be intensified at all level, suggesting for Gambian authorities to produce theaters on how to prevent the disease; hire musicians to produce songs about it as well sensitise students at the level of schools. He declares;
“My contribution to the campaign was a must because I am a Gambian and an Africa and I believe my people must be told to act. So I took it to myself that I must do something. [Even though] I’m far away from The Gambia, maybe my video could prevent someone in one way or the other.
”I love Gambia so much and Africa as a whole; so it is my duty to undertake this action and am not stopping until people got my message right and until I know that my contributions have an impact”
Campaign through SMS
Meanwhile, The Gambia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has not been resting on its laurel with sensitisations being taken to another level. The Ministry engages mobile phone company operators in the country to spread prevention messages about Ebola through text messages. “Ebola is deadly and has no cure. Avoid shaking hands, contacts with infected persons/dead bodies and wash hands regularly. Keep Gambia Ebola Free,” reads a text message to this author’s Qcell line. With the level of campaigns going on at all levels, it is hoped that if people utilise the messages and take preventative measures on their part, The Gambia could be spared. Even though authorities are doing their best to prevent it, however, complacency is not the watchword and must be avoided because the disease is calamitous.