It has been for the past many months, on many tongues, but the mention of the dreaded name ‘Ebola’ still sends cold chills down my spine. And now, with its widely documented unparalleled level of devastation in the form of human deaths in West Africa, this name will be remembered for a far longer time to come.
So devastating is the disease that some religious leaders in Ghana declared August last month, one of intercessory prayer against this deadly virus. And as a Charismatic I was not amazed because in my heart I know prayer backed by action works.
An encounter with a child at the Accra Mall set me thinking as to whether as a nation, we have taken necessary precautions to avoid the spread of the virus in the country.
It was the sight of a light skinned child crying uncontrollably. Her problem? She had been smacked hard and shoved angrily away by a young lady from whom she had asked for alms.
I was struck by the repeated words from this young lady, “Never touch me again! Why, do you want to infect me with the Ebola virus!?”
For days this incident weighed heavily on my mind. Surprisingly, these light skinned children are scattered on the principal streets of Accra and anytime people go about their duties, one can just not avoid coming into direct contact with them as they beg for alms, sometimes to the point of literally tagging along and harassing passers-by for money. On many occasions one has to give them that ‘don’t come near me look’ just to pass by without your shirt or dress being pulled.
Where they are from……,;these are descents from Mali, Niger and Chad, and studies have shown that when they fall ill, they do not seek proper medical attention from a hospital or a qualified doctor due to a predominant lack of needs and sufficient funds. For this reason they rather frequent chemical shops to buy ‘off-the counter’ drugs. What this means, is that if any one of them is stricken with an infectious disease it would be difficult to properly identify them for any quick remedial measures to be taken.
From Mali, these beggars either move through Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote D’ivoire or Burkina Faso to Ghana. From Chad and Niger they probably will move through Nigeria and to Ghana as their final destination.
Now this is the scariest part, the outbreak of Ebola is known to have begun in Guinea in December 2013, but was not detected until March 2014, after which it spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. From Niger or Chad, Nigeria could be a possible route.
The Ebola virus spreads through contact and movement, and that is where the concern of the young lady shoving away the light skinned kid is worth pondering over. These beggars often have contact through touch with their benefactors for some coins.
My nagging question is, have these light skinned beggars moved to their country Mali, Niger or Chad and back within the past 8 months? If so, through which routes?
If those we meet on our way to and back from work have not traveled out within this 8 months, then I wish to ask again, have new arrivals from Mali, Niger or Chad moved in to Ghana to join the others within this year? Do we stand the risk as a nation from these foreigners?
It’s also worth analyzing the issue of Fulani herdsmen flocking into the country. They spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa including Ebola stricken countries. Ghana like the rest of the West African countries, stand the risk of possibly contracting from people who have been to Ebola stricken countries.
In a related issue of how stringent our monitors are, with reference to a story carried on myjoyonline.com dated August 27, nine mine-working passengers from Ebola stricken Sierra Leone claimed they were not screened for Ebola on arrival at the Kotoka International Airport.
Furthermore, latest news coming from a Metro TV News item on its ‘Newsbreak’ news bulletin Monday, September 8 edition indicated that the University of Ghana students, both native and foreigners were not physically screened when school resumed on that day, September 8 despite the high risks of Ebola virus entering Ghana. They were rather asked to fill forms online- a confirmation of a story carried by Graphiconline.com on September 5.
The caption ‘Legon students to fill Ebola forms for hall admission’, revealed that students and staff have been directed to fill forms online. The move was to collect data on the Ebola epidemic for surveillance purposes as the authorities are expecting some equipment from the Ghana Health Service.
So I ask, as a nation, how well is Ghana prepared to contain the Ebola virus that could mistakenly find its way into the country through foreigners who have contracted it and entered Ghana through approved borders?