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I am not a politician. Here’s also my disclaimer…This post may be based on some assumptions. I do not have the exact figures nor the precise facts. But neither do the experts, critics or anyone for that matter. However there are some things that we must think and talk about especially when it comes to saving lives. And this is therefore my plea.

I am not directly in the midst of this Ebola war. But like everyone I have an opinion. And my opinion is this…why has culture got such a grip over Ebola? So much so that people are literally ready to die over it.

Take Sierra Leone for example. The government has done and is doing campaigns in the Ebola war. There have been aid agencies that have been doing great work. The Chinese have come. The Cubans have come. The British have finally come. Aid has been pouring in left, right, top, button and centre.

Health professionals are sacrificially working round the clock at high risks to save lives. Five local doctors have died directly from Ebola. One is currently ill and flown to USA. Those in the diaspora have not been silent. Some have taken their petitions even to Downing Street. Some are looking into research areas for treatments. Some have worked double shifts to donate to a worthy cause.

So tell me, which part of “Don’t touch dead bodies” do people not understand? Let’s take the instruction again. Remember it is an instruction to save lives. And in case you were not bothersome about your life, it is an instruction to save the precious lives of others around you.

So here goes…DO NOT TOUCH DEAD BODIES.

Five simple clear words that can easily be translated in any of the dozen or so languages in Sierra Leone. In Krio, the widely spoken language of the nation, NOR TOUCH DIE MAN!

Wow 4 words even; it gets simpler.

So yes we understand that some cultures of the natives dictate to wash the bodies of the dead. As far as I can think it is impossible to wash without touching. So can culture be so strong, so binding, that common sense or the threat of death refuses to prevail?

I heard that some even hide dead bodies and then bury them secretly at night. Before I continue, as I said earlier, I am NOT a politician, nor write poltics column, nor share my political affiliations in any of my writing; I have a different calling. Yet, for those who say the government this and government that, please share how we can enter the heads of people to put aside culture in the interest of saving lives? One report hypothesised this practise was one of the fastest rate of infection aside from the risks health professionals face.

So is this too much to ask?

OK, it is not like I am sitting pretty in some penthouse overlooking the Thames and thinking how I can save the world. I fully appreciate the psychological impact of losing a dear one and having their bodies being carted away by masked men possibly to some unmarked grave along a host of other similar distressing plots. It is devastating. I am not inhuman to make light this pain. How could I? Believe me, I am emotionally involved in this war too.

But let us step out of our box. Is it not better to take paracetamol than morphine? Why multiply the pain by 4 or 5?

We read that some families have lost scores of members. Orphan children have lost parents, uncles, aunts and all the familiar faces they knew. This is heart wrenching. But we can take action now. People, we can change our ways just for this war. The onus is on the people directly involved. Let us not perish for apparent lack of knowledge because knowledge is everywhere on this disease. And at all communicable levels and in every form, and even whether one is literate or not.

For the sake of the sanity of a future generation of the people in affected nations, it is my appeal to lay aside the weight of culture that so easily ensnare us that we may run with endurance the race against Ebola that is set before us.

Please.

Thank you.

Writer, columnist, coach and public speaker, Zoe A. Onah is the author of the bestseller and the award nominated book, DEFYING THE ODDS – One man’s struggle and victory over mental illness and his wife whose trust in God never failed. Zoe met her husband, Eze in the 14th year of his tumultuous journey with mental illness and 4 years later, he bounced back, and defied the odds with a clean medical bill of NO mental illness! Their organization, Defying Mental Illness – Put a Full Stop (DMI), is reaching out to those faced with mental health challenges to help them not only defy the disease, but also put a full stop to the stigma and discrimination.
(All proceeds from DMI is currently going towards donations to Ebola. Zoe is a trustee for Stop Ebola Now, a non profit organisation that partners with King’s College Ebola Partnership to fight Ebola).

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