Tele-Evangelist Pat Robertson recently made a terrible gaffe when, on his TV programme on CBN, said that travellers to Kenya risked contracting HIV/Aids from hotel towels. It raised such a storm that CBN pulled it down and apologised.
Then came the mother of all ignorance: Howard Yocum Elementary School based in New Jersey, USA, unnecessary put a whole town in panic mode when it barred two young Rwandan children from starting day one in school over Ebola fears.
The children were to stay away for 21 days, the incubation period of the disease. That is what panic and ignorance does, it destabilises and stigmatises some sections of society.
Just like Robertson, the school just apologised saying it had “become the unwitting face of our nation’s fears with regard to pressing health concerns”.
As one person wrote in an open letter to the school published by Huffington Post: “Ebola is closer to New Jersey than Rwanda”, referring to the first Ebola detection in Texas. It went on to ask whether the school would bar students from Texas, Germany or Spain which have recorded cases of Ebola.
The above two cases just go to show how far stereotyping can affect innocent children, the damage has already been done. And in such a society where many people think Africa is one country, every African has Ebola.
This calls for increased public awareness about Ebola, how one can protect themselves from the virus and other similar health emergencies to avoid unnecessary panic and prejudices.