Via The New York Times: At Heart of Ebola Outbreak, a Village Frozen by Fear and Death. Excerpt:
NJALA NGIEMA, Sierra Leone — The signs of a deadly struggle remain: Scattered around the houses of the Ebola dead lie empty pill packages, their plastic casings punched through. Nearby in the mud are used packets of oral rehydration salts. The pills did not work, and the hurried trip to the hospital, if there was one, came too late.
Inside house after house, Ebola has claimed its victims: Here, 10 people died; over there, four, including three children. A few yards away, an old man lives alone, his wife now dead. In another, seven people are dead, the village teacher said. In a long low house nearby, 16 died, all from the same family. Outside yet another, two tiny girls, one age 6 and her sister, 7, sit pensively in front, their parents gone.
And there are more. “So many,” said Sheku Jaya, the 35-year-old village teacher, clutching his little daughter’s hand. “We lost too many people.”
Here in the nation most afflicted by Ebola, in the hardest-hit part of the country, this may well be the most devastated village, local and international officials say. Some 61 people have died here, out of a population of perhaps 500. Njala Ngiema, a mud-brick community of rice and cassava farmers deep in the forest, is quiet now.
“We wanted to abandon this village,” Mr. Jaya said.
There are still people here, but the village appears frozen. Inside the darkened houses, the scant belongings of the victims — ragged clothing, sandals, a rare radio — sit untouched weeks later. No new cases have surfaced here in nearly a month, but fear that the deadly virus still lurks has kept everything in place. Nothing appears to have moved since the deadly tide swept through.
The Sierra Leone government, desperate to contain an epidemic that has claimed about 300 lives in this nation alone, has effectively cordoned off this part of the country, deploying troops and setting up roadblocks in the hardest-hit areas. Two districts here in the east — an area with about one million people — were put under quarantine by the government late last week, shutting down much of the traffic on the muddy road cutting through the Ebola zone.
Now, a region roughly the size of Jamaica has been cut off from the rest of the country because of the roadblocks, warned a local leader, David Keili-Coomber, the paramount chief — raising worries that if the epidemic does not decimate the region, a subsequent shortage of food, trade and supplies will.
"Our fear now is that closing these roads risks having more people die of malnutrition and even starvation than by Ebola,” Mr. Keili-Coomber said in an email message.