More than 4,500 people have died from Ebola, but people from West Africa say that some of the biggest threats they face have nothing to do with the epidemic, but rather the widespread stigma they encounter daily.
Children who have been orphaned by the disease often have nowhere to go. People who have survived the virus, and are now immune, are being shunned. Kids from affected communities who live in America are being bullied and children who are from African countries that haven’t been touched by the virus are getting pulled out of school.
To combat the widespread panic and destructive stigmatization, three advocates have launched a campaign that aims to humanize people from West Africa.
Participants are taking to social media and are holding signs that read: "I am Liberian Not a Virus"
Shoana Clarke Solomon - "I am a Liberian, Not a Virus" the campaign against ebola stigma pic.twitter.com/MLLuoHZExz
— Liberian Ent Awards (@LibEntAwards) October 11, 2014
Together with her mother and her friend Shoana Solomon, a public speaker, Aisha Cooper Bruce -- an advocate from Liberia -- launched the powerful campaign, according to her HuffPost blog.
Bruce serves as the Liberian representative for Let Girls Lead, a nonprofit that aims to empower girls worldwide and ensure that they lead healthy and safe lives.
Bruce recently came to America for work and is now stranded here because her return flight was canceled, she wrote in her blog.
She said she feels helpless by the amount of misinformation being spread about the virus. She is infuriated by the depressing way people from the most affected countries, which also includes Sierra Leone and Guinea, are being portrayed in the media.
"I want people to understand that we are more than the latest breaking news," Bruce wrote. "We are not 'those Africans.' We are not pitiful media images, statistics or projections. We are mothers, fathers, children, scholars, artists, doctors and survivors. We are people."
— Post Health/Science (@PostHealthSci) October 22, 2014
Solomon, whose daughter was accused at school of having Ebola because she’s from Liberia, hopes the initiative will urge skeptics to treat West Africans with compassion and see them for who they really are.
"It is wrong to stereotype and stigmatize an entire people," Solomon said in the campaign’s PSA. "Remember, we are human beings."
— TheNewsMinute (@thenewsminute) October 23, 2014