Via The Guardian: Ebola: life and death on the frontline. Excerpt from a long, informative article:
Outside a run-down elementary school in West Point, Liberia, health workers stand silent and stiff under a balcony as the night darkens. Their spare supply of white hazmat suits, latex gloves and chlorine has been stolen, along with food for 21 patients who were being quarantined inside.
Just an hour earlier, locals had burst through the gates and looted the facility. Patients suspected of having Ebola were “liberated”; the mob took their bedding and mattresses out with them. Now the staff are waiting for the police to escort them to safety. They eventually depart, unharmed, but they’re forced to leave a patient’s dead body behind.
The school was supposed to be a holding centre so that those infected by the virus could be quarantined in the community before they came into contact with others. The main treatment centre was so choked that one healthcare worker said he feared people coming in without the virus might end up infected. But the initiative collapsed after just 48 hours. At least three people died inside – they did not receive medical treatment during their final hours.
West Point, Monrovia’s largest seaside slum, serves as a microcosm for the fear and confusion that is gripping the wider community. The Ebola epidemic has claimed 1,145 lives and infected more than 2,000 across three countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – in just five months.
Since the outbreak in Guinea began, many who live in the region have been deeply confused about what Ebola is and how to prevent it. Resistance and denial run high. There are reports that around 150 bodies have been secretly buried under Monrovia’s sands, in contravention of the government’s ban on burials. Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids, and the corpses of those infected can remain virulent for months after death if not treated with chlorine and sealed off with plastic.
But local culture is a challenge in communities where world events are seen through the prism of religious fatalism and superstition.