Students withdraw from Africa program due to Ebola

Kristen O’Malley planned to study in Ghana as a part of the Africa study abroad trip this spring, but news of the Ebola outbreak led to her withdraw from the program.
“I signed up to participate in May,” said O’Malley, sophomore at Augustana College. “But in August after the outbreak my mom made me pull out of the program. The faculty said they were monitoring the situation and that the outbreak was not in Ghana, but my mom still said it was not worth the worry she would experience while I was gone.”
Originally the group planned to do internship and class work in Ghana, located in Western Africa, and then travel to Tanzania, located in Eastern Africa, for the final weeks. Due to low participation, it is likely the group will stay in Ghana, said Todd Cleveland, a history professor with a specialization in Africa and one of three facilitating professors of the trip.
There are 12 students signed up, according to Cleveland. About five students have dropped the program due to the Ebola outbreak, which began in March.
According to the World Health Organization website, Ebola is a virus that is transmitted to people from animals and is spread through human to human transmission, with a fatality rate of around 50 percent. The outbreak is severely affecting Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and other West African nations.
“You would not cancel your trip to Portugal if it was in Greece. People assume Africa is monolithic, but it is different countries, and West Africa is huge,” said Cleveland. “Ghana also has a more reasonably robust health infrastructure, it is more developed and better equipped to deal with a potential outbreak.”
Cleveland has been in communication with concerned parents, but despite their worry, 12 students remain committed to the program.
“My parents understand that I am an adult and that I will make my own choices,” said junior Brittany Hallman. “Overall we are all nervous, but not about Ebola, about the trip being canceled. I have been in communication with the professors in charge and me as well as the other students are confident that they would not send us somewhere unsafe, or that if where we went became unsafe they would evacuate us. As long as the school gives us the okay, we are going.”
Faculty and administration are continuing to monitor the situation and assess safety. Cleveland said that travel insurance will be purchased, most likely at the expense of the school. Plane tickets will not be purchased until Nov. 1 to prepare for any last-minute cancellations.