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[COMMENT] 'Tackling Ebola requires political will'

I REMEMBER watching the original Band Aid video and concerts way back in 1984.

As a young man, I remember being overcome with a mixture of pride and happiness that so many people had come out in support of tackling famine in Africa.

It seemed to me, at that time, there was a real chance that global people power, aligned to celebrity stardust, could force the world to address something that was a scar on the conscience of the world.

But Bob Geldof, even back then, failed to include African artists.

So while I admired his passion and energy, the reality was that the single was patronising and condescending.

It was designed to appease the conscience of liberals who take comfort in the lie that a few pennies in a tin can help save a continent ravaged by unfair debt and the endemic corruption African elites in the sway of exploitative European businesses and their governments.

Today, just as then, the problems of Ebola in West Africa are much more complex and serious than can be addressed by a charity single.

We applaud the response of Ghanaian Afrobeats star, Fuse ODG to Geldof's invitation for him to appear on the single.

He politely declined and he was right to do so.

We are tired of the clichéd view of Africa, usually accompanied by a 'white saviour mission’.

This extends to news coverage too.

I am completely horrified that the BBC feels it's fine to broadcast intimate pictures of dying Africans, stripping them of what little dignity they have left.

Yet when Americans died during the recent cold snap, we saw no pictures of partially undressed elderly American women, lying dead on our screens.

To add insult to injury, there has virtually no mainstream news coverage in the UK or Europe of the excellent Africa Stop Ebola single sung by African stars.

The West African Ebola crisis continues to destroy lives.

Less known is the extreme antisocial nature of the disease that is tearing apart, cultural and economic life in the region.

Crops are rotting in the fields, shops are closed, schools are shut and local economies are being destroyed.

As well as these profound economic and social calamities there is another profound disturbingly aspect to Ebola.

Human touch is fundamental human need at times of great stress, pain or worry. We naturally cleave for one another at such times. We have a deep genetic need, to take comfort in the embrace, touch and hugs from our fellow human beings.

Such contact between a sick child and parents has proved to reduce stress and aid recovery.

Imagine then the unimaginable horror of facing death in a plastic tent, surrounded by the dying, confronting that, stark bitter loneliness, without the healing comfort of compassionate care, expressed through love and tactile warmth of the human touch.

West Africa's economic progress is being crippled by Ebola.

The region needs to be able to exploit its massive natural resources, so as to enable the development of their economies and liberate Africans living on less than a dollar a day.

While natural resources are in abundance, the political will to stop international exploitation and local corruption is not.

West African governments and the African Union (AU) must take responsibility for the endemic corruption of African elites who bleed their economies dry leaving their fellow countrymen in abject poverty.

The UK and the European Union (EU) also need to do much more to assist.

We should be increasing our aid to the region by a factor of 10 otherwise risks seeing our aid effort completely overwhelmed ending in certain and tragic failure.

That’s why in London on Friday, December 5, we are launching a people's campaign against Ebola.

The aim is to put political pressure on the UK and EU to increase current aid, to pressure the African Governments to step up and tackle governance issues and to call for a global day of action against Ebola in 2015.

We are enormously grateful to Fred Gayle, owner of our conference venue Club Zanzibar, in Sydenham, who has provided the venue free of charge.

The Mayor of Lewisham Sir Steve Bullock will officially welcome attenders to conference

The High Commissioners of Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will be speaking providing insights into the crisis.

Nigeria will explain how they managed to contain the virus. In addition, we will be supporting local projects working on the ground in the region and you’ll be able to hear more about their critical work.

The lamentable global response to this crisis is contrasted with the magnificent response of Cuba and China who both have provided huge numbers of doctors, engineers and medical aid dwarfing the commitment of the rest of the world.

Both the Cuban and Chinese embassies will also address conference.

Other organisations in attendance will be Melqoush Missions, who do vital work to support orphans and amputees both victims of war and sickness, and the Liberian Food Donation programme - organised by Liberians in Europe.

In addition, on December 6, former Harrow mayor Awula Serwah is organising Dinner Fundraiser for Ebola in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières UK at Best Western Cumberland Hotel.

Unless we begin to prioritise the development of West Africa then cry for Ebola victims today and weep again over Malaria victims.

The fundamental problems are lack of infrastructure, ethical governance and realising African economic potential.

Let's end the perpetual stereotype of West Africa in crisis.

To register for the conference, visit:

For more information, visit:



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