Malaria in Ghana or Bengt You Could've Called Me

I was just reading one of my favorite columnists in Sweden, Bengt Ohlsson. He starts as he often does, to comment on some quite ridiculous trait of the Swedes (this time the extreme dependency on the mobile phone). But then he surprisingly continues with a story about Ghana. He writes:

Men jag vill ändå påstå följande: jag trodde att jag visste vad vanmakt var. Det var innan jag stod på en grusig Medborgar­plats i februarimörkret och min exfru ringde och sa att hon hade pratat med vår son och att han trodde att han hade fått malaria.
Det hade han nu inte. Det spelade ingen roll. Eftersom han var i Ghana hade jag inte ens haft en teoretisk möjlighet att dundra ombord på ett plan och åka dit, eftersom Ghana kräver visum och grejer och gula febern och dessutom har de inte ens någon ambassad i Sverige.

In my translation:
I thought I knew what powerlessness was, that was before I stood on a gravel covered Medborgarplats in the February darkness and my ex-wife called and said that she had spoken to our son and that she thought he had caught malaria.
It turned out he hadn't. It didn't matter. Since he was in Ghana I wouldn't even have had a theoretical possibility to rush aboard a plane and go there, since Ghana demands Visa and things and Yellow Fever and don't even have an embassy in Sweden.

Wait now. Malaria rarely kills, especially not people with funds to get treatment. But yeah, I also freaked out when my siblings caught malaria in Ghana last year. We rushed them to hospital and in just 24 hours they were feeling better. However many Ghanaians cannot afford treatment as highlighted by Swedish Medecins Sans Frontiers in their malaria campaign here.

And not even a theoretical possibility to go? What about the daily flights from Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam? Visa on arrival? Calling the Ghanaian Embassy in Denmark to help out? What about just emailing me or any other Swede in Ghana and ask us to check on your son?

I get the column was about how little you can do on the other end of a satellite phone call, but judgements like these without any facts supporting them do little for building on a truthful image of Africa. In 2006, 8565 Scandinavians ( and about half a million international tourists in total) came to Ghana and many more are discovering Ghana every year and I am pretty sure most of them survived (the only reason I am not saying all is due to dangerous traffic).

Those kids on the beach on the pic above are the ones who risk their life when contracting malaria.


Toks said...

That's very true but after so many years of having Africa portrayed negatively by the media personally I think that it's not for everybody so most of the time (not always) you'll find the people that do come are a bit more open minded and far less ignorant which suits me just fine. It is bad enough getting asked dumb questions about Africa in the West but it's even worse when it happens in Africa so I'd have to say I'd rather he waited until he can be proven wrong before he took the trip.

Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Haha, Toks, I never thought of that, that the wrongful assuptions about AFrica keeps some unwanted people, maybe this Afropositive blog then should find another focus?

But nah, I still have hope for the people who once thought Africa was as deadly as the venum of a scorpion and as far away as the moon.

I used to be one of them.

Miss Footloose said...

Before I started traveling, I was as ignorant as anybody about Africa (and a few other places as well, like say, Palestine), but after having lived on the African continent for a numbers of years, I find it hard to deal with other people's ignorance. Especially when they have no interest in being "enlightened." For one thing, there are still people who think Africa is a country ...

Miss Footloose

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