Africa – Give Me the Good News
Regardless of how much you love and believe in this majestic continent, sometimes, the bad news will get the better of you. Sometimes you wonder if we will ever be able to get to the next level. Here are three pieces of good news from our beloved Africa to fuel your hope and belief.
West Africa is Ebola-free
In March 2014, ebola – the highly infectious disease which presents through fever and internal bleeding – became top of mind for the first time in decades as West Africa experienced an outbreak of the disease. While in some parts of the world it was only headline news, it had devastating effects on the West African region with over 11 300 people dying from the disease in the space of just over 18 months.
The ebola crisis saw a lot of the world turn its back on the countries that were affected by it, because it is so contagious. When an American doctor was diagnosed in September, 2014, the country became a bit closed off to the crisis. Early in October, Liberian Eric Thomas Duncan died in Dallas, Texas from the disease. The doctor was believed to be cured until ebola was found in his eyes.
Even South African “opinionistas” argued the validity of “closing borders” to protect the country, which would have meant leaving the region on its own to figure it out or, maybe, even perish.
But the devastation did come to an end. Slowly, countries in the region began being declared free of the disease, which was judged based on the lack of new cases over a sustained period of 42 days. Nigeria and Senegal were the first countries to be declared free of the outbreak in October 2014.
Sierra Leone, which lost almost 4 000 people to the Ebola outbreak, was declared safe in November 2015. Next up was Guinea, the following month. The last country to be declared ebola-free was Liberia, which was given the clean bill of health on January 13, 2016. Almost more than 21 months since the initial outbreak. Liberia lost close to 5 000 people. According to the World Health Organisation, the more cases discovered, the longer it takes to deal with them.
But so far, after all the loss, West Africa remains ebola-free.
Malawi Bans Child Marriages
According to research, Malawi has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world, with many girls getting married (often by force or due to circumstance) by the time they are 15 years old. The most disturbing part of this is the age of the “husbands” who are often much older. In 2015, the country passed a law that brought minimum bridal age up to 18. This means that marrying children would become illegal, not just immoral.
Child brides face a lot of obstacles. For one, they usually come from poor communities and homes – often the marriage is deemed a way out for the whole family. Once the girls are married off, it’s near impossible for them to continue with their education, so they will likely be forever dependent on the marriage for survival. There is also the issue of early pregnancy and the complications it presents to a young, growing body.
While the world shouldn’t need laws for people to understand how wrong this is, Malawi is on the right track.
A Different Kind of Disney Princess
In Katwe, Uganda, a new regent rises. Based on the life story of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, Queen of Katwe is a new film that introduces Disney audiences to a different kind of princess. Nine-year old Mutesi discovered a chess programme in her community in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Just two years into playing the game, she became Uganda’s junior women’s champion, a title she held for two years in a row.
Mutesi went on to play international chess Olympiads and was even the first girl to compete in the boys’ category in Uganda’s schools’ competition. Her impact has been seen in the growing number of girl players in the tournaments. The film Disney has made about Mutesi’s life is based on the book of the same name by American writer Tim Crothers. The film stars Kenyan Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o and British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo.
Mutesi’s ascendance to the throne began because she was hungry and wanted the meals the church in Katwe offered to those participating in the chess programme. Long may she reign!
Queen of Katwe will be in cinemas in September.
What’s your favourite African story from the last few years?