For CNN International anchor and correspondent Isha Sesay, the Ebola crisis is more than just a news story. “My mother, brother, grandmother and countless loved ones – are in Sierra Leone right now; their day-to-day lives, their routines, their normalcy, has been ripped to shreds by Ebola,” said the American-based journalist. “I feel somewhat guilty that my physical life is able to go on without major disruption while my relatives wonder what the next day will bring.”
That guilt motivated her to partner with a group of journalists and technologists to launch the digital media project Ebola Deeply. “Our mission is simple,” Sesay said. “To humanize this public health emergency and to drive the dialogue in search of new ideas and solutions to the crisis”. In an age of misinformation and negative press, Ebola Deeply helps cut through the noise. Sesay describes the importance of the project to us. “This platform is an integrative, multimedia approach to informing the global community about the worsening Ebola crisis in the most comprehensive and holistic way possible – through the voices of ordinary Africans, local and international experts, survivors and government leaders from Africa and the rest of the world. Ebola Deeply is also a forum for thought leaders and key influencers to engage in search of new solutions to this crisis”.
Sesay has covered the Ebola outbreak for CNN. But Ebola Deeply allows her and her team to provide more context to the content and bridge the empathy gap. As one of her co-founders, Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson, said, “This outbreak is pushing us to take a deeper look at ourselves as global citizens, to question our perceptions about the continent of Africa. Each country in Africa is home to millions of people with unique customs, languages, skin colors, DNA and feelings. As this outbreak continues, we may want to keep in mind those feelings. Thousands of human beings are fighting for their lives. We cannot continue to embrace the notion that anything separates us from them”. Sesay and everyone involved say they want each person who visits the site to “to walk away smarter and better informed about what’s happening in our world”.
It comes as no surprise that Sesay would be an advocate for such a platform. Her love for the African continent is palpable, even as she continues to give back, actively addressing important issues. With over a decade of international reporting experience, Sesay is on a mission to bring meaningful, serious news to audiences around the world. Of more recent note was her coverage from Nigeria on the kidnapping of over two hundred Nigerian girls from a school in Chibok, Northern Nigeria and of course, the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa, interviewing a number of key officials about the crisis including Liberia’s Vice President Joseph Boakai and President Alpha Conde of Guinea. She is also just as passionate about the right of girls to receive quality education. In 2014, Sesay founded Women Everywhere Can Lead (W.E. Can Lead), a non-profit organization committed to educating and empowering girls across Africa. Sesay recognizes the importance of education in empowering girls to envision positive possible future selves. “It struck me that for a lot of girls, particularly growing up in a place like Sierra Leone, they don’t have that support system; generally speaking, only one in six girls goes to high school…..girls feel that there are limitations to what they can achieve . I decided that I wanted to use my position and my experiences to change that”.
Image: Courtesy Ebola Deeply