On October 13, 2014 WAHA International spoke about the Ebola outbreak in Guinea in the French newspaper “Le Nouvel Observateur”.
In Conakry, crazy rumors about Ebola spread faster than the virus
In Guinea, the official message is worth nothing. The origins of the virus, its transmission, available treatments…everything is suspect. From our Special Envoy
When he speaks of the first Ebola patient in Guinea, “patient zero”, Fodé Sylla’s voice takes on the tone of an African storyteller telling a fable under the talking tree: “Everything began in the deep forest of Guinea, in the small village of Méliandou. A two year old little boy died on December 6, 2013, after suffering from an unexplained fever for four days. One week later, one after the other, his family members started dying from the mysterious illness. The entire village became terrified. Was the family cursed? Did someone cast a spell on them over a stolen sack of millet? The terrible truth would soon be revealed. The little boy was the first Ebola patient. He had been bitten by an infected bat.”
Then the former journalist and eminent member of the National Coordination for the fight against Ebola breaks out laughing. The hypothesis elaborated by the epidemiologists, he doesn’t believe it for one second. It is just a story, a fable for the Western pigeons. Really? “A bat would never bite a person. Everyone in Guinea knows that. They are afraid of people and stay away from them.” Why on earth did epidemiologists go and make up such a story. “Guinea is a rich country, scandalously rich.” He won’t say anything more…
Rumors and fantasies
In Conakry, and even more so in the bush, everyone doubts everything. After years of lies and corruption, the official message means nothing. The craziest rumors about Ebola spread faster than the virus. The origins of the virus, its transmission, available treatments, how money is being used…everything is suspect. The idea that Ebola is a disease that was created and sent by Whites remains. Even in cities. By saying that “Ebola could solve the immigration problem in three months” Jean-Marie Le Pen [former leader of French National Front political party] not only dropped the “right” obscene word for FN [Front National] voters. He also contributed to fuelling these devastating conspiracy theories. Many, in fact, have the date of his statement wrong, and are convinced that the representative of the FN “knew” before the virus was even identified and “let the cat out of the bag” regarding the world plot to exterminate Blacks…There you have it.
There are a lot of rumors. In Conakry, people will tell you in all seriousness that the virus is a biological weapon, that stems from a settling of scores between the mining company Rio Tinto and its competitor, Vale, for the control of the mines. Or that Barack Obama “voluntarily let the first patient in Dallas die, because he was Black, and that he wanted to discourage other sick people from coming to the US.”
“The Ebola Business” of Whites
In villages, hostility against Whites in on the rise. Against Black foreigners as well. Suspected of being envoys for the Whites and to be profiting from the “Ebola Business”, they are not welcome either. The telephone rings in Fodé Sylla’s office. It is the father of a young boy who went to the Bush to raise awareness, who says his son is being threatened by the population. “Who told him to go there?” storms Fodé Sylla. “He is not from that village, he has no business being there.” Today, only former village people, the ones who have been successful in cities but have kept links back at home, can be sent to carry the message in their home villages.
And for good reason. By sending teams in full protective gear to evacuate the dead and the sick using maximum-security precautions, MSF [Doctors Without Borders] did their best, of course, for the security of their teams and the protection of the population. But in these remote villages, where many have never seen a White person, imagine the arrival of these men who show up in huge jeeps dressed like astronauts, spray toxic products, and take the sick with them, never to be seen again. Are they not instead involved in human trafficking, or organ theft? Here, the spray bottles, which are used in fields for insecticide, are associated with poison… Of course, communities hide the sick. Because they are suspicious. And to avoid being put in quarantine, which robs them of their already low revenues. Or just because they are convinced that doctors cannot do anything for them anyways.
Traditional healers rather than doctors
The first messages sent by the authorities that stated that there was no cure for Ebola did not encourage people to seek treatment. Since there is no chance of surviving, why report that you are sick? You are better off relying on traditional healers and remedies. On salt water. Or on coconut oil, which is supposed to cure. Sick people also escaped from confinement centers.
Here, more than anywhere else, dying close to ones loved ones is essential. So is respecting funeral rites. In a village in Sierra Leone, on the border with Guinea, everyone came to touch the body of the imam that had just died. Worse, some of the water that was used to wash his body was distributed amongst the population…the worse of the worst. “We have to find tools to fight the disease all the while respecting traditions,” states Cheikh Mbaye, General Manager for WAHA, an NGO advocating for communication that is respectful of the culture of the communities. “Here, the fear of ancestors is greater than the fear of Ebola.” That’s saying.
Natacha Tatu, Special Envoy in Guinea – Le Nouvel Observateur
Translated from French
To read the original article in French, click here: http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/virus-ebola/20141012.OBS1871/a-conakry-les-rumeurs-les-plus-folles-se-propagent-plus-vite-qu-ebola.html