EBOLA OUTBREAK IN UGANDA : WHEN JOURNALISTS BECOME HEROES

IN THE MIDST OF THE TERRIBLE OUTBREAK OF EBOLA, THERE ARE ONLY THREE JOURNALISTS LEFT IN THE AREA -TWO PORTUGUESE AND ONE FRENCH. DEFYING ALL RISKS, WHICH ARE COINSIDERABLE, THEY DEMONSTRATE A TRUE LOVE FOR THEIR PROFESSION IN A SPIRIT OF INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION The deadly Ebola virus reappears in Uganda. There is no vaccination, no cure. It is not even known why the virus suddenly appears and then just as suddenly disappears, leaving horrific deaths in its wake. - as the virus travels around the body, it constricts and then attacks the tissue of blood vessels, causing spontaneous haemorrhages from the eyes, ears, nose moth, genital organs, anus or skin. The result is a terrible death. Worse still, it can be transmitted by a simple handshake. The African tradition of laying the hands on the bodies makes this virus even more easy to propagate. When the local authorities divulge this information – it is too late. Whole villages are walking human time-bombs. To date, there are 191 registered cases of this outbreak of Ebola in Uganda, 68 of whom have died, according to World Health Organization representative Michael Ryan, from Ireland. More cases are expected to be registered in the next two to three weeks, the incubation period of the virus, which provoked the Hollywood film “Outbreak” in the 1990s. Ebola was reported for the first time in 1976, in the country then called Zaire, now Democratic Republic of the Congo, causing 270 deaths. Since then it has appeared spontaneously in Gabon, Sudan, Liberia, Ivory Coast and now Uganda. There are different theories as to what carries the disease, but there has been only one proven link – the consumption of monkey meat. This link was proven in the outbreak in Gabon in the late 1990s, when a group of hunters found a dead chimpanzee and ate it, contracting the disease. All twelve of them died. Of the 1100 cases registered in the world so far, 793 have died. In the midst of this nightmare in Uganda, only three journalists have decided to remain – the Portuguese Feliciana Ferreira and Rui Coutinho of the newspaper “Diario de Noticias” and the “Figaro” reporter, Frenchman Jean-Michel Bader. In a spirit of heroic courage, these three journalists voluntarily remain in the infected areas, working together and sharing the data they have collected, for one purpose only : to keep the world informed about what is happening, showing a true love for their profession which transcends all thought of personal risk. This is the profession of journalism in its most noble state.

Tim Bancroft-Hinchey Lisbon