Africans living in Luxembourg are experiencing a new kind of racism fuelled by wide-spread ignorance about the Ebola virus.
Despite the fact that no cases have been reported in Luxembourg, President of African body “Maison d'Afrique” David Foka explained that the African diaspora was being “stigmatised.”
He said that many people fear that Africans have the illness simply because they are African.
“If I cough, everyone will flee. You see people move away. They won't say it. But they don't want to approach you,” Mr Foka said, adding: “It's worse than racism.”
The staunch defender of African diaspora rights in Luxembourg and LSAP party member said that the situation had become so acute that he can no longer organise conferences on African issues, “because people might think they they will become contaminated.”
The solution, however, is as simple as talking about the subject, Mr Foka explained.
“We need to talk more so that there is no stigma, so that we don't judge people based on their appearance.”
The Cameroonian is working with NGOs such as Médecins sans Frontiers and Luxembourg MEP Claude Turmes for a campaign to educate people in Luxembourg about the virus and how it is contracted.
He will also participate in a Greater Region conference on the matter in Saarbrücken on Monday.
Stigma aside, African diaspora members in Luxembourg are further affected by the virus in that many friends or family members in West Africa have been infected with the illness. Mr Foka pointed out, it is difficult for the diaspora to visit their loved ones because the illness is disrupting mobility.
“If you travel, you don't know if you will be able to come back to work. Will you be quarantined?,” he said.
Most worrying of all is the perception and misinformation about the illness and its treatment in West Africa, where Mr Foka believes the rate of infection is considerably higher than the 15,145 cases reported.
He said people are fleeing health centres and confinement camps in Sierra Leone, for example, because they fear they will be killed so that Westerners can steal the country's resources.
“These people (NGOs) arrive in their country, dressed like men on the moon. They spray the people with chemicals and people start to run. They think this is what is giving them Ebola. That's what is coming through on the social networks in Africa,” Mr Foka said.
He added that the situation is compounded by gestures from the US to send soldiers, as this reinforces fears of an invasion.
Mr Foka believes that the solution is an African one – to have African leaders explain clearly the treatments and causes while Western doctors and nurses work in the background.
At the same time, he recognises the need for more volunteer health staff to help deliver much-needed care in West Africa. “People have been generous enough. But money cannot cure people. We need volunteers.”
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