Friday, December 07, 2007

Ebola in Bundibugyo

I discovered by flicking through Reuters today that at the moment there is an outbreak of a new strain of Ebola in Uganda. Over twenty people have died and over one hundred are ill with several hundred being monitored for symptoms. Borders have closed, people are being screened and all this has been going on since August. Yet this is the first I have heard of it even though I look frequently at the BBC News website every day and skim through the Daily Telegraph every morning.

But worse than this is an outbreak of bubonic plague just north of the Ebola-hit district. It kills more women than men because the men sleep on beds where the fleas that carry the plague can't jump; while the women, by tradition, sleep on the floor.

As I started making dinner just now I thought of this - all those people suffering and their friends and relatives wondering what is in store for them. Then I thought about how parochial we are - if a plane came down anywhere and killed and hurt this many people it would be flashed everywhere - maybe because this could happen to any of us. Ebola outbreaks (and modern-day outbreaks of plague), however, tend to occur in the poor places where needles are shared, the nurses wipe away tears with the corners of their aprons and then comfort their patients with hugs. This part of Africa is remote and beyond contemplation - and so we disregard.

Word count: 15 000


Blogger Lee said...

Have you read Doris Lessing's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize? It's in today's Guardian and makes, in a different context, much the same point.

Sat Dec 08, 04:13:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I hadn't - thanks Lee - very interesting.

Sat Dec 08, 09:50:00 pm  

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