I never thought I would be writing this.

I have been in East Africa for the past couple of weeks and quite out of touch with the news.  This weekend am back at a hotel near the city (Seeta, Uganda) and it has been raining so I have watched some news reports on the TV in my room. Seen from  the perspective of this part of the world, the news from the U.S.A.  leaves me feeling incredulous.  Yesterday one member of a panel discussing the exclusion of people from some Muslim nations to the U.S. and he talked about how he felt unsafe for himself and his children in South Carolina and that the President, using Christian values was concerned only about the safety and security of Americans.  No mention of  gun violence because of their gun laws or lack of them, but happy that only Christian refugees from Syria would be considered to come to the U.S. and that extreme terrorists from other countries would be kept out.  He then went on to say that the United States was a “gold standard” for a society in the world.  I almost threw my shoe through the television at him.  But then I realized that there must be many Americans who think this way or the current president, congress and senate would not have been elected.

The world population is 7 billion and the population of the USA is 330 million – less than 5 percent.
Americans now have fairly elected a Republican president, congress, and senate that want to make their country “great” by acting only in self-serving ways, excluding the rest of the world if it is not in their interest. Full of self-importance and egocentricity.
I know there are many Americans who do not think this way but the reality is that the country had a legitimate election and the current administration won the contest. I was encouraged to see the Women’s marches across the country (and around the world) but it feels a bit like the horse is already out of the barn.  Peaceful protest around the world can express opposition but it is only Americans – and I think more specifically sensible Republicans, if there are any – that can deal with this distressing regime. How did it get this far and just how far can it go?  The current government reflects the choice of the people. The United States of America will have to live with it, but why does the rest of the world?
What would happen if the other six and a half billion, the rest of us, just let the USA build its walls and live in a cocoon? Ignore them. Leave them to themselves. Let them do what they want within their walled existence. It wouldn’t have to be a political alliance just a cooperative effort.  Stop buying American goods. Stop selling them oil and water. Stop buying their weapons of war. Stop vacationing in Las Vegas or Florida or New York City. Watch Aljazeera instead of CNN. Go to internationally made movies. Form our own trade agreements excluding the USA. Make it “us” and the U.S.   Be friendly but just let them live in their restricted little egocentric American bubble. If they really want to interact meaningfully and inclusively with the rest of the world they will have to prove it. If not…good luck.

Walls and fences can keep people out but they also serve to keep people in. Let them build their walls and keep people out. Leave them alone. Let’s see how “great” they can be without the rest of the world supporting them as they bully their way into the position of privilege they think they deserve.

The behavior of the new U.S. administration is distressing.  I fear that the U.S.A., a badly (bigly?) divided nation is in for a rough ride.

I’m gonna make it up for all of The Sunday Times

I’m gonna make it up for all of the nursery rhymes

They never really seem to want to tell the truth

I’m so tired of you, America.

Making my own way home

Ain’t gonna be alone

I’ve got a life to lead, America

I’ve got a life to lead

Tell me, do you really think you go to hell for having loved?

Tell me, enough of thinking everything that you’ve done is good

I really need to know, after soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood

I’m so tired of America.

Rufus Wainwright – Going To A Town

Where is this heading?

I am worried about Ebola. It is rapidly spinning out of control.

Photo from internet

Photo from internet

I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a four-year old African child whose mother is dying of Ebola and I can not hug her or comfort her as she is dragged off by people looking like space travellers. I can not imagine what it is like to be a health care worker in a facility where there is no clean water supply, limited resources and few beds and knowing that just touching someone who is infected to provide care for them or make them more comfortable is risking my own life.

It annoys me somewhat when I see the panicked response of the U.S. or Spain when they get one case that is treated in health care systems that have funding many, many times that of the West African countries that are struggling to manage it. When the outbreak affects thousands in Liberia, far away, the response is muted. When one person in North America is treated with it, the response is a cascade of protective efforts, likely costing billions in the long run. I am not saying this is wrong, just imbalanced and so self-absorbed.

It frustrates me to know that the international community has dragged their feet in responding to this outbreak … until it becomes obvious that, with international travel, it is only a matter of time that the disease reaches us. It worries me that other African countries will soon be at risk and that their health care systems will do their best, but are woefully inadequate to cope with the anticipated exponential spread of this virus.   It troubles me to know that economies in many African countries, already struggling with poverty, will be decimated. Tourism is a major source of income. What traveller is going to pick an African vacation for their family with all this negative press and uncertainty?

When I graduated from medical school in 1974 there was no AIDS. Well, there were a few cases, scattered somewhere, but we didn’t know about it. Now millions have been infected and died of AIDS and although we have medications to manage it, we do not have a cure, nor effective immunization against it. Will Ebola be the next AIDS? Or worse?

What can we do about it? What can I do about it? So far the Canadian government has allocated about 5-6 million dollars to this crisis. They have also just approved an air bombing campaign in Iraq of undetermined cost but with estimates of 100 million dollars or more.   It costs close to $17,000 per hour to operate a CF-18 and each JDAM-equipped bomb that is dropped costs about $25,000. Can we get our priorities straight? Or at least balance them? How do we influence these decisions?

I have worked for the past five years to help to provide infrastructure improvements for schools, clinics and communities in East Africa through the CanAssist African Relief Trust. Will this be at all helpful if Ebola spreads eastward in Africa? I would like to think it will help. Education about spread of the disease and protection from it is essential to avoid infection and schools are a resource to help with that. CanAssist has supported clinics in several communities and has provided improved water and sanitation to communities and schools. Hopefully this will help if the need arises. Without adequate sanitation or access to clean water, how can anyone avoid contamination? CanAssist’s work involves only a few communities – we have limited resources despite a never-ending need. But hopefully, by preparing some communities a bit with infrastructure to help manage any possible outbreak (of Ebola or any other health threat) we can, in fact, save a few lives.

I plan to return to East Africa early in 2015. In addition to continuing to monitor and support new and existing projects through CanAssist (at no cost to our donors, by the way) I will be thinking about helping to provide some medical information about Ebola to the communities that I visit in preparation for what I fervently hope does not happen there. I have often felt that if Africa was educated about HIV/AIDS early on that this scourge would not have taken hold the way it did. Maybe with some warning and information, countries neighbouring those currently affected by Ebola can prepare to prevent it from engulfing in their communities. Not a panicked, emergency response but a practical preparation for a possible threat. It is worth a try.

“If I am only for myself, then what am I? And, if not now, when?” Rabbi Hillel, 50 BC

Slums in Africa house millions of people with little access to health facilities, clean water or sanitation. How would you contain it if an Ebola strikes here?

Slums in Africa house millions of people with little access to health facilities, clean water or sanitation. How would you contain it if  Ebola strikes here?