Via The New York Times: Surviving Ebola, but Untouchable Back Home. Excerpt:
The neighbors lined up, smiling and mouthing soft congratulations when the van pulled in bearing Jattu Lahai and her 2-year-old daughter.
No one moved to embrace them. Nobody stepped out of the line of 30-odd people as Ms. Lahai, an Ebola survivor, walked to the room she shares with her husband. A conspicuous space formed around the smooth-faced 26-year-old woman and her baby, also a survivor, as she sat on a bench.
“When I fell sick, everybody abandoned me,” said Ms. Lahai, in her darkened room for the first time since the ambulance whisked her away two weeks ago on a trip most do not return from. Crying softly, she wiped her tears with the hem of her dress and spoke a quiet prayer. “I didn’t think I was going to come home again,” she said, cradling her daughter, Rosalie.
Here in the Ebola zone, the world is divided in three: the living, the dead, and those caught in between. For those lucky enough to survive, coming home is another struggle entirely.
Ms. Lahai’s homecoming experience — muted and cool — has been shared by many of the survivors of the Ebola epidemic spreading across West Africa. Doctors Without Borders says only 61 of the 337 Ebola patients treated at its tent-camp treatment center in nearby Kailahun have survived. When they go home, some are greeted warmly, with hugs and dancing. But others, like Ms. Lahai, feel a chill of wariness, or worse. In some places, health workers said, the neighbors flee.
“How long does the virus live?” a young man asked the health workers who brought Ms. Lahai home.
“What will kill it?” another demanded amid a flurry of anxious questions.
“How can you cure?” asked yet another.
The worries are hardly confined to Sierra Leone, the country with the highest number of Ebola cases, 810. Some in the United States objected to the decision to take two infected American aid workers to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment, fearful the disease would be spread further.
In some other places, any association with one of the affected countries, however remote, is enough to set off suspicion and ostracism.
For the last 10 years, MacQueen Farley has been living in a refugee camp in Ghana, a country untouched by the epidemic so far, where she makes a living by braiding hair for about $3 a person. But because she is originally from Liberia, she has had to deal with people’s fears, and has found it hard to find customers or even a bus ride to town since the outbreak in her home country.
“So we find it difficult to eat,” she said. “They say, ‘The whole camp is covered with Ebola.’ ”
She added: “Sometime, when I go to the market, when I go to buy food stuff, even when I’m trying to give the seller the money, they use plastic to receive the money from us. Yeah. They put plastic on their hands to collect the money from our hand.”
Some of the other refugees living in the camp, who fled Liberia years ago during times of war, have said that they are now reluctant to go to the hospital for fear that they will be summarily quarantined as Ebola patients.