Stories from the Grassroots: The Greengrants Blog
Oct 23, 2014 | No Comments
We have been following the ebola crisis with deep concern for our friends, grantees, and advisors who live in West Africa. Nearly 5,000 people have already died, making this the biggest ebola outbreak in history. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that there could be 1.4 million new cases by January 2015.
Although we make few grants in the hardest-hit countries, Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of our Board of Directors, lives in Nigeria, where there was a brief scare, and we have advisors in Mali and Burkina Faso.
In early October, Allison Davis, our Deputy Director of Programs, was in Mali for a meeting of our West Africa Advisory Board. She shared these reflections:
Officially, we were there to discuss grants the board is making to people working on clean energy, displacement from mining, and cleaning up contaminated water. But ebola was hot on everyone’s mind.
Mali has not yet had a case of ebola, but it shares a border with Guinea, and the country is preparing for the inevitable first cases. We talked a lot about the human tragedy going on and depicted constantly on the news.
It struck me that the local television stations in Mali were not dwelling on the border crossings and the efforts to keep ebola out, as one might suspect. Instead, they were focused more on the stories of families devastated by what was happening around them.
One would think we might do more of the same in the United States—balance our fear and worry about ebola with more heartfelt concern for the thousands so dramatically affected.
One of the hardest images for me to watch is the footage of a deceased person being marched away by people in full-body plastic suits in front of the staring families—without the possibility of proper mourning rituals or proper acknowledgement of the life that came before ebola.
We talked about how funerals are village-wide rituals, extremely important to the family of the deceased. We talked about the heartache of being unable to dress the body, the impossibility of saying goodbye, the lack of recognition from anyone in the community of the life that came before the tragic end.
Local news stations in Mali are true to this reality. It was a stark contrast with the U.S. news on ebola, which seems so full of fear and without the right balance of compassion for the people affected. I wish we could take more of our journalistic cues from a country that actually borders the epidemic and has every reason to be fearful.
Do you want to help?
Should the infection zone spread to areas where we have grantees, Global Greengrants’ West Africa advisors could use reserve emergency funds to support a grantee to get through the crisis. But if you want to help stop the spread of fear and misinformation about ebola, we recommend donating to American Jewish World Service Emergency Response Fund.
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