I always say a prayer before I start my car. Driving in Ghana is very safe, it is just the other car drivers that are the problem. Everybody seems to be in a hurry to get to their destination. This is very surprising because they are slow when it comes to everything else. As I mentioned before, when I arrive in Tema, there are three roundabouts before I get to the office, nobody seems to wait until there is a gap for them to pass, instead they just drive out and you are expected to wait for them. On the motorway too, even though there is a fast and slow lane like the rest of the world, nobody usually takes any notice of it. It is not uncommon to get stuck behind two long vehicles and you don’t know who is over taking who. If that is not bad enough some idiot comes speeding from behind and expects you to slow down to let him push through. I tend to drive a lot slower these days than I used to, the drivers behind can honk at the roundabout and the taxi drivers can shout out profanities but the fact is I am not going to have a poster with my picture and the caption “Gone To Soon” just because I decided to overtake a long vehicle and the driver in front me is ignorant of the law, or a person decides to walk into the road forcing me to get into an unnecessary accident.
The other day I was sent a whatsapp, it said EBOLA, Eliminating Billions of Lazy Africans. Some may find it quite sickening but the truth is, that is becoming to be the reality. The disease started off in Guinea and spread to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Then it moved to Nigeria, Lagos to be precise and it’s causing fear and panic because there are fears that it could spread to this side of the continent and beyond. After 6 months and over a thousand deaths, Guinea finally declared a state of emergency and closed its borders, but I wonder why it has taken so long before action was taken.
There is no vaccine and there is no cure but if you are fortunate enough to be an obroni, it is likely that your chances of survival are a lot higher than your average African (they get flown back to an isolated facility and it is said have been given a test serum which appears to have helped two aide workers who caught the virus although this is not confirmed). Its symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous damage, the fatality rate is 55% – 90%. Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery. Fruit bats, a delicacy for some in West Africa are considered a natural host for the virus. The virus is deadlier than HIV as this virus is spread by contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids such as sweat and blood. In this tropical environment just shaking hands with a sweaty infected person can pass on the virus and it is spreading like a game of tag.
We have been advised to carry sanitizers as before the virus can penetrate into the skin, washing your hands in warm soapy water can kill it before it infects you. I have always carried a sanitizer in my bag but now I seem to use it every two minutes and wash my hands every time I go past the washroom (you never know who has touched the hand rail).
The most unfortunate situation about this whole sorry story is that it is sheer ignorance that is killing the people, I wouldn’t even say it is lack of education because it is in the newspapers, on the radio and local TV, they educate on the best cause of action to avoid this but yet the number count for deaths is spreading. We have been told that once a person dies, especially from Ebola, we should leave it to the professionals to dress and properly dispose of the body, they have the protective garments and are trained in the proper cause of action. Yet still in the name of “tradition” people are burying their own. We are told if we believe that we are developing symptoms we should seek the appropriate attention. Yet one man from Liberia, who’s sister caught t he virus decided to hop on a plane and travel to Nigeria. Due to his disregard, two health workers died and 5 other people developed the virus. In addition, the medical centres have admitted that they lack adequate facilities to deal with this crisis, which is probably why almost every health worker coming to contact with a victim has either contracted it or died from it. I am sure that this will resolve itself soon but I pray that it doesn’t get worse before it gets better.
There is a stigma attached to the virus, just like HIV, but unlike HIV, stepping on a plan and coming into contact with “healthy” individuals is putting them at risk, people need to stop crossing the borders at least until they get it checked out, it is selfish of the individual to put other lives at risk just because he wants the world to “see” him/her as healthy. At least if you don’t value your own life and won’t seek help, don’t put others into such a tight corner.
In Ghana here, Cholera is our greatest enemy. The cause of this problem is due to pure lack in any type of hygiene. You can walk the streets in Accra today and you will find a lady selling food, close to a gutter, the gutter is filled with waste and excrement, there are flies swarming around and still people are buying, isn’t this cause for sickness?
Around 600 people have contracted the disease or died from it, in and around the country. You find people using water from the stream which others have pissed in, they are using it to cook and to bathe, does it take a genius to tell you that you are going to get sick? You would think this was common sense, however I was listening to the radio and somebody asked what advise should he give to the grandmother in the village and the advice was simple, wash your hands before and after eating, make sure that the food you cook is hot so as to kill any bacteria and boil hot water before you bathe. On top of poor hygiene, the streets are dirty to boot, I wouldn’t say everywhere, but some parts you would probably hold your nose even if you drove through the town with the windows up and the A-C on in the car. The waste management system seems to be on a go slow, people put their rubbish out, pay for the service yet there are no vehicles to collect the refuse. Which is unfortunate, because I see the owner of the largest waste disposal unit in town (ZoomLion) every evening, he drives down the road in his 4×4 with 4 motorcycle police guarding him (he doesn’t do traffic like the rest of us mere mortals). He is obviously getting our money so why not send out the trucks to collect the rubbish?
I listen to the radio every morning and I shudder to think of what this country may become. It has so much potential but for every two steps forward, there is like 5 steps back. Even in my office, we have a health and quality meeting every Friday morning. When the cholera outbreak first came out we read out an article which advised us not to eat bush meat as it carries certain diseases. One of the guys here was incensed and tried to defend it saying if it is cooked correctly, I am careful to avoid him now as if anyone is going to catch something, it is likely to be him.
Who says ignorance is bliss?