Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why Ebola Matters...Now

Today we've awakened to the news that someone here in the states has been diagnosed with Ebola, the first such case in the USA. And of course there are the Facebook posts speculating, the CDC head pontificating ("we will stop this in its tracks"), critics wondering why travel from West Africa has not been more monitored, and people not wanting to go go Dallas.

I think it's silly to say we will "stop" it--when we don't know how many people have traveled here from affected places and were near someone with the virus who sneezed--yes, that is one of the ways it can be transferred. Maybe we will stop it, or maybe we won't. But I'd rather claim credit for something done than assure people we will do something I can't ultimately control.

But here's the more interesting thing to me--we care, now, because it's here. But whole nations are under quarantine in Africa, not allowing travel across borders, because of this disease. Thousands have died. And some people weren't sure we should bring US citizens home for treatment when they were infected while treating patients. Perhaps we should ask why having Ebola here is so much more newsworthy than the months of Ebola suffering in Africa was. We all know the answer--it was happening to THEM over THERE, and now it can happen HERE to US! Now we will be anxious to find a vaccine and a cure and make sure everyone can have it--here.

One of the greatest international legacies of President Bush was the PEPFAR program that aggressively combatted HIV/AIDS in Africa, and by all accounts (including those of some of our missions personnel) saved many lives and drastically increased survival rates. Interestingly, it was attacked here in the US as a waste of money by most of his political allies and was ignored or belittled by his opponents. Over the last 4 years, the government has cut the budget by 12%--and we're not talking trillions of dollars here--it's a relatively small program. More people will die and more orphans will be created.

With Ebola, Christians have been concerned for aid workers. We've seen impact as mission ventures have been short-circuited. But have we thought about how devastating this is in a needy region where many are believers--our family?