Ebola has been a concern in Uganda for the past two months. According to the report of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Out of Uganda’s 44.7 million population, there have been 141 cases with 55 deaths so far.
But the government of Uganda has been facing wide criticism for its record which has been interwoven with assumptions and unsupported allegations regarding the outbreak.
Battle Kay, a 28-year-old boy who lives in the capital Kampala, through his social media spreads videos that criticize the records and actions of the government. He said: “I think there is no Ebola in Uganda.” He is trying to misinform people that there is no Ebola or such thing in Uganda and it all is created by the authorities to do other illegal activities behind.
Like this boy, there have been many people who claim misinformation about Ebola online. The major claims among them are :
◾ The Ebola outbreak is being used by government authorities as a justification for locking down and controlling citizens.
◾ Ebola is a fabrication to collect body parts to sell illegally.
◾ The authority is falsifying the case counts, to get funding or to frighten people.
For instance, a social media post stating organs were sold under the cover of the Ebola virus emphasized a visit by the UK’s Princess Anne, the sister of King Charles, in October. They are claiming that she could never have been to a nation where there were “real” cases of the Ebola virus.
Princess Anne visited despite the outbreak being present, in part due to her association with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is aiding in the disease’s eradication.
The people like Mr. Kay, whom we mentioned earlier are the followers of the opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi widely known as Bobi Wine who lost to Mr. Museveni in the 2021 presidential election.
Those who make such false allegations about the Ebola virus are mostly the people who are critical of Yoweri Museveni’s government. Some people, like Mr. Kay, distrust everything the government says because of their opposition to Mr. Museveni.
A nurse working in the UK named Patricia Ssewungu is still highly active in political agitation against the government.
She admitted to the BBC that while she did think there were Ebola cases, she believed they had been overstated. She stated that this was due to what she believed to be the “uncountable” way in which money was spent by the government elsewhere for Covid, health, and education.
The other group that is spreading misinformation about the Ebola outbreak is people who previously talked false about Covid at that time.
Another ex-candidate for the presidential election in 2021, Joseph Kabuleta claimed that the authorities are using the disease to get finance and he also alleged that the Ebola vaccines are not safe even if he hadn’t any evidence.
The major challenge that the government is facing in such a difficult time is such fake pieces of information and news provided by people online. State Minister for Health Margaret Muhanga has recently stated that the politicization of the outbreak was one of the challenges the government is facing.
She said that “ Some politicians… are confusing the public by saying that there is no Ebola and this epidemic is the government’s propaganda of mobilizing resources.”
The people who spread misinformation regarding the epidemic say that the Ministry of Health should leave the outbreak and help people to develop immunity, without even thinking about what happened in West Africa.
Ebola is a deadly virus that has been circulating in rural parts of Uganda since September 2022.
The initial symptoms of the disease are sudden fever, muscle pain, sore throat, and intense weakness. The one who is affected by Ebola will be going through vomiting, diarrhea, and internal and external bleeding in some cases.
The virus can quickly spread through an infected but asymptomatic patient due to the population density and ease of mobility, even internationally.
The outbreak is gradually being brought under control but the situation is still fragile. Only with the cooperation of the people, it will be possible to prevent the outbreak. The misinformation and fake news will only bring the situation to its worst.
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