Africa is one country, right? I find it funny how people often refer to Africa as one place. With the outbreak of Ebola, the misperceptions of Africa’s geography is strengthened. And tourists are staying away from the whole continent due to fear of the scary virus.
A good friend of mine had a big dream to travel to Africa. However, the dream was destroyed when the dad told her to cancel the trip due to that he was afraid of the Ebola outbreak.
More detailed, her plan was to visit Kenya and Uganda. Uganda is closest of the two nations to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The closest nation affected is Nigeria. However, from Kampala (the capital of Uganda) to Nigeria there is a distance of 4,295 kilometers. That is about how wide the American continental is. Another way to put it, most cities in Europe are closer to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea than Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, or Kampala.
I have myself taken flight from Nigeria to Uganda, and it took me over a day. I therefore could not stop laughing inside me, when I heard that the trip to Uganda and Kenya was cancelled due to the fear of Ebola. Furthermore, only eight people have died of the outbreak in Nigeria. The most affected countries are even much further away.
Map of Africa, and the Ebola outbreak (marked red).
On the other hand, I can understand that many people have misperceptions about Africa’s geography, and think it is a country. Because, it is how the media usually present it. Furthermore, I do not think it is that weird that people react with panic related to the virus. Ebola was one of the biggest news stories this year. And what did we learn from it? Not much. Panic and fear replaced rational thinking.
This is why, many tourists cancel their trips to all over Africa. South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Namibia. Name it! Though there is no Ebola there. And it is FAR from the outbreaks. And it is not only tourists that cancel, so do airlines. For example, Korean Air Lines Co. deferred its route to Kenya, located three time zones away from the outbreak, because they were afraid the infection would spread there via services from West Africa.
All of this, do not help contain the virus. However, it surely dampen the economy of the region. In principal its travel and tourism sector. Furthermore, it jeopardize millions of livelihoods.
It is also worth asking, why the panic related to Ebola is so high. While malaria, AIDS and influenza do not cause such a level of panic, when they cause many more deaths per year than Ebola.
That being said, maybe as sad, even outside Africa, Africans are stigmatized because of Ebola. It does not matter if their actually are from one of the outbreak countries. Or have not been in their home country for ten years. As long as he or she is from Africa, people think that the person is a risk.
Just a few weeks ago, I heard on the news that Ebola most likely had come to Bolivia. Everyone was in panic. However, it turned out that it was just a person coming from Zambia in a plane. He had no symptoms. Just because he was African, they put on the alarm.
I have also read about two Rwandan students in New Jersey that had to stay at home from the elementary school because parents and the school were concerned. In Minnesota, sneezing Liberians were asked to leave work temporarily. In Germany, several schools were said to stay away from an annual world bazaar in Berlin with participants from Africa. And a guy from Togo, observed that when he sneezed at the underground all the people moved away from him.
Black skin, an African accent, or perhaps traditional clothes are enough to prove “suspicious”. If it was not easy to be an African outside Africa before, Ebola is certainly not helping.
Anyway, my point is that Ebola should not stop people to travel to Africa. Nor should it contribute to that we are afraid of Africans we meet outside Africa. Because seeing black skinned Africans as viruses, is irrational and unfair.
Would you cancel a trip to Africa due to the Ebola-virus? How do you react when you met a person from Africa, thinking about the Ebola outbreak?