A great find by Lucie Lecomte in The New York Times: If They Survive in Ebola Ward, They Work on. Click through for a video about the "burial boys." Excerpt from a report datelined Kenema:
The best defense against despair was to keep working. Many times, that choice was far from obvious: Josephine Finda Sellu lost 15 of her nurses to Ebola in rapid succession and thought about quitting herself.
She did not. Ms. Sellu, the deputy nurse matron, is a rare survivor who never stopped toiling at the government hospital here, Sierra Leone’s biggest death trap for the virus during the dark months of June and July. Hers is a select club, consisting of perhaps three women on the original Ebola nursing staff who did not become infected, who watched their colleagues die, and who are still carrying on.
“There is a need for me to be around,” said Ms. Sellu, 42, who oversees the Ebola nurses. “I am a senior. All the junior nurses look up to me.” If she left, she said, “the whole thing would collapse.”
The other nurses call her Mummy, and she resembles a field marshal in light brown medical scrubs, charging forward, exhorting nurses to return to duty, inspecting food for patients, doing a dance for once-infected co-workers who live — “nurse survivors,” she called them enthusiastically — and barking orders from the head-to-toe suit that protects her from her patients.
In the campaign against the Ebola virus, which is sweeping across parts of West Africa in an epidemic worse than all previous outbreaks of the disease combined, the front line is stitched together by people like Ms. Sellu: doctors and nurses who give their lives to treat patients who will probably die; janitors who clean up lethal pools of vomit and waste so that beleaguered health centers can stay open; drivers who venture into villages overcome by illness to retrieve patients; body handlers charged with the dangerous task of keeping highly infectious corpses from sickening others.
Their sacrifices are evident from the statistics alone. At least 129 health workers have died fighting the disease, according to the World Health Organization. But while many workers have fled, leaving already shaky health systems in shambles, many new recruits have signed up willingly — often for little or no pay, and sometimes giving up their homes, communities and even families in the process.
“If I don’t volunteer, who can do this work?” asked Kandeh Kamara, one of about 20 young men doing one of the dirtiest jobs in the campaign: finding and burying corpses across eastern Sierra Leone.
When the outbreak started months ago, Mr. Kamara, 21, went to the health center in Kailahun and offered to help. When officials there said they could not pay him, he accepted anyway.
“There are no other people to do it, so we decided to do it just to help save our country,” he said of himself and the other young men. They call themselves “the burial boys.”