I've made a real find via the Facebook page of Sierra Leone Issues: a long, photo-rich post titled Human tales of Ebola. It's on a blog called Freetown Fashpack. Here's a somewhat longer excerpt, direct from the blog:
This blog is a platform I normally reserve for the important issue of fashion in Sierra Leone, but this week, I’m struggling to find a fashion angle. Unless you’ve been living on mars, you will know that West Africa is suffering the worst ever outbreak of the world’s most deadly disease – Ebola. I traveled to Kenema district last week for an assignment to write about the outbreak.
I live in Freetown and before leaving, the epidemic hadn’t really kicked off here. ‘EBOLA!’ (said with a loud voice and chuckle) was something that was happening in villages, places that didn’t affect the urban folk of Sierra Leone’s capital. I knew Kenema was a district suffering huge case numbers, but nothing prepared me for what I saw and heard in one of Sierra Leone’s most brutally affected areas.
When you arrive in Kenema, there’s a feeling that Ebola has settled in. Chlorine buckets sit outside most restaurants for people to wash their hands, Ebola information posters are plastered on buildings, crackly radios are broadcasting conversations about Ebola, people are talking about “dis Ebola bisnis’ relentlessly on the street and handshakes have been replaced by a brush of the elbows.
I spent three days speaking to anyone who was willing to share their experience of Ebola – hospital staff, Ebola survivors, relatives of those infected and the brave front line nurses who are putting other people’s lives before their own.
Everybody was keen to chat about Ebola, their stories were heartbreaking and fascinating and I got a real sense that Kenema is a town under siege by an ‘enemy’ that no one properly understands. Communities are scared, many are confused and most feel let down by the leaders who are supposed to be in charge.
Sister Nancy Yoko – Nancy is a front line Ebola nurse at the Ebola Treatment Centre inside the grounds of Kenema Hospital. She has just taken on the responsibility of sister-in-charge following the death of her colleague Sister Mbalu Fonnie who tragically passed away last week after becoming infected.
Nancy works 14-hour shifts and has barely had a day off since the outbreak started seriously affecting Kenema three months ago. Five of her other colleagues have died and her dwindling staff are getting smaller each week due to Ebola infection and the drop-out of nurses who fear becoming sick.
“I don’t feel afraid, I’m a nurse, I’m doing my job. We are trained to sacrifice”. Her brow is permanently furrowed and she is exhausted. She is a hero.
Nancy’s job is tough, an Ebola ward is hot and messy and pungent and in Kenema hospital, packed to capacity. You can only enter the ward while wearing the ominous looking personal protection (PP) suit, which in Sierra Leone’s tropical temperatures, is like walking around in a furnace.
Nurses like Nancy earn Le150,000/week (about US$40) which include a recent Le50,000 (US$11) weekly pay rise to compensate for risking their lives. The ward is overflowing with 45 patients and as recommended by health officials is in need of a staff of 65 nurses, there are currently about six.