Via The New York Times, an op-ed by Wade C. L. Williams, a reporter for FrontPageAfrica: In the Grip of Ebola. Click through to read the whole article. Excerpt:
Liberians have begun calling the days between July 27 and Aug. 3 “the dark week” — 173 new Ebola virus cases and 94 new deaths. How much darker things may get is anybody’s guess.
In Johnsonville, a swampy town outside Monrovia, three dozen corpses in body bags were dumped in shallow holes marked by wooden headstones last week. Afterward, white gloves and other protective garments lay scattered everywhere — abandoned by a doctor and his burial team as the community, bewildered with fright, chased them away.
Meanwhile, in Monrovia, the government seemed overwhelmed and panic-stricken. Only on Wednesday did it declare a full state of emergency, letting the military quarantine large areas. Fear, misinformation and flat-out denial have been far too common since March, when West Africa’s Ebola outbreak reached Liberia. Among the government’s first reactions was to limit journalists’ coverage of it. That, in my view, is a major reason the virus has spread as fast as it has.
My first sight of an Ebola case came late in June, and only after I insisted that I be allowed to cover one of the many burials rumored to be taking place. When an assistant health minister finally said yes, I went to Paynesville, outside Monrovia, to the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital, where the aid workers included a physician, Kent Brantly, and a missionary, Nancy Writebol, the two Americans now back in the United States being treated themselves for Ebola.
As I entered the compound I saw men in white protective suits. One, who was to walk me through the burial ritual, whispered that he and his team were about to bring the body out. But a mourner told him, “My uncle did not have Ebola; he died from high blood pressure.”
Confusion reigned until Dr. Brantly emerged and made it clear that the corpse being readied was not the Ebola victim’s. So the workers took off their protective suits, and the head of the burial team said it was too late to inter the Ebola victim: Neighbors of the burial site were chasing them away, fearing that the participants were contaminated.
The next day, I went back. It was a sad sight. Only three male relatives had come to mourn the victim, a man in his 20s. White-clad men brought out his body, zipped in a bag on a stretcher that they placed on the ground. An ambulance driver sprayed the bag, which another man in white then unzipped to let the relatives glimpse the corpse; one took a picture of it.
I was scared, so I filmed the burial from afar. FrontPageAfrica published my reporting and the images I took on our website and social media platforms.
Those were, I believe, the first images of the Ebola outbreak to circulate in Liberia, and the impact was huge; at last, people began to believe that this disease was real.