My arrival on the pounding shores of the African continent was coincidentally timed with the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus. My original plan was to head up the west coast of Africa, up to Morocco and then break east across the north by the Mediterranean coastline to reach the Middle East.
Upon learning of the Ebola outbreak when I was in South Africa sometime back in March, I re-routed my route and decided to head north to Namibia, break east across Zambia and Malawi before turning north-east to Tanzania and Kenya until shooting straight north to the Middle East through Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
The countless messages of concern regarding my well-being and ‘watch out for Ebola’ has been overwhelming. Well, not really overwhelming. It’s mostly from my immediate family and then further messages passed on by other relatives and then a few friends registering their concern.
The media, as usual, has hyped the Ebola outbreak to extreme levels to make it seem as though the whole of Africa is under siege. A lot of people in the Western World who failed geography, seem to assume that Africa is one big country.
Well it’s not. There’s only one continent that’s a country and that’s Australia. Africa, like other continents, is made up of different countries housing different cultures, languages, dialects, food, nature and eco systems. There are deserts, rainforests, jungles, savannahs, pristine beaches and wild coast lines (same as Oz just that Australia is under one flag).
Africa is made up of 57 countries. Out of the 57, only four countries are affected by the Ebola virus to a point where travel there is not recommended: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Guinea and Liberia.
All in the tiny region known as West Africa.
And the Ebola outbreak, in its current locale, is closer to the European continental shelf than to the rest of Africa.
The hyped up media reports have made tourism drop significantly throughout Africa, which has a huge economic impact on this usually forgotten continent (until they’ll strike a huge oil reserve and then everyone will be Africa’s best friend). Countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi – too name a few – are so far detached from the Ebola outbreak that they may as well be on Mars.
In fact, to give you some perspective, here are some of the biggest killers in Africa that will kill you without proper medical attention way before the Ebola will get you (according to http://answersafrica.com/diseases-in-africa.html. All figures are deaths annually):
Tetanus – 200,000 Africans.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis) affects up to 30 million Africans and kills up to 300,000.
Measles – 242,000 Africans.
Diarrhea causes 8% of all deaths in Africa, I shit you not.
Malaria, a parasite passed via mosquitoes, is responsible for about 1.2 million African deaths per year, mostly because they don’t have access to the required medication that can rid your body of the parasite that most hospitals in Africa have.
AIDS\HIV kills about 1.5 million people in Africa. HIV is easily prevented through sex education and if the Catholic Church can get it out of their asses that condoms save lives.
Pneumonia – 800,000 Africans.
The Ebola virus – currently – has taken the lives of over 5,000 unfortunate souls out of the 15,000 that have been affected.
Why all these deaths? Due to lack of health care facilities. And it’s usually the poorest of the poor in Africa that are affected and subsequently die. Meaning, people that can’t afford airfare to travel and unwillingly spread the disease.
The Ebola virus is not an air-born virus (although future mutations might change the battle fields). It is carried mainly by bats that infect bush animals that in turn are hunted and killed and their meat consumed by humans who then contract the virus (posters and adverts in Africa suggest to avoid eating bush meat and bats).
Contraction is via body fluids and the blood stream.
So in the immortal words of Public Enemy, don’t believe the hype. Africa is safe. You stand a greater chance of getting hit by a car on any road on the planet than getting killed in Africa – a continent, not a country – and contracting any of the above-mentioned killers.
So if you’re about to plan a vacation for Christmas and New Year’s, I can recommend no better place than Africa to enjoy your holiday. The people are kind, warm-hearted, friendly, open and love to smile, sing, dance and laugh. The wildlife is everything you could ever dream of. The food is great and the weather varies from warm, hot to too fucking hot (depending on your locale).
And it’s cheap. Your dollar and Euro will be stretched for miles with beers at a dollar or less, spirits at $2, local food prices range from $2-$5 for huge servings. The fruit is fresh and grows on trees on the street. Most of the tap water in south and eastern Africa is safe to drink.
As with every travel destination, use your common sense, wash your hands, do your research and have fun.
Just don’t let the media kill off Africa. It’s a beautiful and magical place waiting for you to explore it.