20 Oct '14


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Of Ebola and Koro: irrational fear and ridiculousness to the fore

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Dear Uncle

Of Ebola and Koro: irrational fear and ridiculousness to the fore

In August 2002, I was nearly lynched by a mob near Kwame Nkrumah Circle, in Accra. You see the whole city of Accra had been under the grips of mass hysteria called Koro, a psychological case of vanishing penises. I had asked for directions to a particular shop and immediately thereafter the young man accused me of “stealing his penis.” As a mob gathered to administer instant justice, which at the time was death, a voice from nowhere shouted, “he is a doctor, I know him, he is a doctor, he saved my dad’s life.” To this day I still believe it was an act of God that saved me from lynching. But at the end of that day, instead of giving praise and glory to the Most High, I rather had mixed feelings. That night I was manning, the emergency room alone, when the cops brought a young man who claimed his “penis had vanished.” As I proceeded to examine him, an anaconda-like gem of a penis rolled onto the hospital bed, and I mean that literally. When questioned he claimed, that his penis, yes that anaconda size penis, was half what it’s original size had been. I had never felt such inadequacy in my life!! I was glad that God had saved my life, but angry that he did not take care of me in some vital areas. By the end of that mass hysteria, twelve people had lost their lives from mob attacks.

Fast forward 12 years later to 2014, and Ebola a disease that has so far taken the lives of over 4000 people in the sub-region of West Africa, is causing fear and mayhem when pragmatism is what is most needed. I have seen and heard ideas, ideas most of which are futile, ridiculous, and mostly borne out of irrational fear. And these proclamations emanate from both sides of the Atlantic.

From the African perspective, I have heard of hints of racism. Why has the experimental drug not been given to West Africans and yet has been made available to White doctors? Well for one, it is an experimental drug. These same people would have cried foul if an “experimental drug” had been used on Africans in the first place. There are people who kill health care workers for administering polio vaccines, for crying out loud!! A lot of responsible Africans would have raised issues with us being used as guinea pigs. And for Christ sakes, why don’t we learn to make our own drugs and help our selves when we most need it. Can Nigeria and other rich African countries not marshal forces to help their fellow Africans? There have been accusations of racism on how the first Ebola victim, Mr. Duncan was managed. Now I am not privy to that particular case, but people should know that doctors make mistakes all the time, and I am willing to accept, that Mr. Duncan was sent home not because of his skin colour, but because of a genuine mistake.

On this side of the Atlantic, suggestions that emanate from far right media borders on plain foolishness and whimsical nonsense. Mr. Rush Limbaugh accuses the president of allowing Ebola to come to the US because he wants Americans to suffer for the sins of slavery. Yes Mr. Limbaugh, I agree with you on that! One news entertainer suggested that all West Africans and holders of West African passports should be barred from entering the United States!!! But you know that shit aint happening because, what they are they going to do without our rich natural resources? I mean that will bring the US stock market to its knees. Ebola alone has tanked the market a whopping thousand point within a week.

Hospitals that should know better have signposts reading “if you have come into contact with somebody from West Africa in the last month, please report to the hospital IMMEDIATELY. You see for lack of knowledge in Geography and plain ignorance, Americans think West Africa is one large country. It’s like grandma assuming that Texas is the whole of America!! As a West African, I really feel like a space alien, a rare specimen that should be preserved in a space suit, lest I wreak havoc on the unsuspecting public.

A few days ago a woman who had emesis on a bus caused the whole passengers on the bus to be detained for hours. A door to a section of the Pentagon was closed for hours ostensibly because, well when you vomit, you must have a high likelihood of Ebola. All common diseases like diarrhoea; influenza and even plain old cold have all vanished from the list of common ailments. For Americans, pandemonium has brought to naught the concept of Occam’s razor, which states inter alia “plurality is not to be posited without necessity.” Sir Isaac Newton states it much better. He says, “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes.”Simply put Americans are more likely to die from influenza and gunshot than Ebola. In fact Americans must be more concerned about families that refuse to immunise their children, than contracting Ebola here in the US. It’s that simple!!

So at this juncture, as the countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, regions in West Africa, NOT THE WHOLE WEST AFRICA, continue to deal with the deleterious effects of Ebola, let us Africans offer them help in any way that we can. No contribution is too small. I urge my entire fellow West Africans to contribute to various charities that are helping out in these countries. Make a 10-dollar donation to charities like “Doctors without Borders” and let us offer prayers and pragmatic solutions that will aid our dear brothers. For that is exactly what they need!!!

Your nephew

Otukunana Yaw Berko, great grandson of Opanin Yaw Berko, rich farmer from Kwahu Pepease!!


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