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South African Prof wants the concept of Ubuntu to be applied with Ebola

May 13 , 2015 “The concept of ‘Ubuntu’ should be applied to the ethical treatment of Ebola – and other neglected tropical diseases – in order to change the way that African countries respond to the disease” These are some of the words from Professor Thaddeus Metz, a Humanities Research Professor from the University of Johannesburg. Professor Metz was speaking at a session of the Ethics, Human Rights and Medical Law conference in the 5th annual Africa Health Exhibition & Congress, which happened from 5th to 7th May at the Gallagher Convention Centre.

‘Ubuntu’ means humanity to others and ‘sharing a way of life’ and it is with this in mind that Prof Metz is quoted as saying, “Roughly speaking, at the core of Ubuntu is the need to act in a loving way and, in this perspective, wrong behavior is unloving. I think an Ubuntu ethic recommends that Africans must take the lead when responding to tropical African diseases. I’m afraid the African Union did not do this with Ebola.”

He said honoring communal relationships meant that countries that identify with each other have an important obligation to help each other, as African societies mostly share a way of life, which creates the duty to help one another in times of need.

Dr Terna Nomhwange, the National Consultant, World Health Organization, Lagos, Nigeria also spoke at the Symposium, saying, “Who are we waiting for to take action? Ten thousand people died from Ebola in the recent outbreak and why are we only talking about it now? Ebola is not a new disease. We have known of the virus since 1976 nearly 40 years.

“Why have we not yet had clinical trials to deal with it? Why is there not yet a vaccine to deal with a 40-year-old disease? Has it received only little attention because it has affected mostly poor people? If we answer some of these questions, maybe we will be prepared for the next 50 years.”

Prof Metz concluded his presentation by saying, “For me, there is one way in which those who practice Ubuntu would do well to borrow from the West in this particular regard: we need a greater sense of outrage when Africans are exposed to tragedy. It doesn’t cost a lot put together a march or write a letter to the New York Times. Simply shout out – don’t neglect them!”

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