Via The Guardian, a personal account by Bintu Sannoh in Kenema: Ebola – as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old from Sierra Leone. Excerpt:
Things got much worse still when Ebola came into our community. There was a pharmacist who got ill but said he was suffering from a septic ulcer, so he never went to the hospital.
We believed him because he was a medical man and maybe because we didn’t know any better. Many people came in contact with him during his illness. When he died, his corpse was washed and prepared for burial by people in the community, as is our custom.
But when his death was reported to the hospital, it was found that hehad died of Ebola. After about two weeks, several people who had come in contact with him and those who washed his corpse fell ill. Out of fear, the chief called for the ambulance that came and took three people to the hospital. The sound of the ambulance frightened us, especially us children, and panic gripped the entire community: people believe that whoever is taken into the ambulance to the hospital will die – you so often don’t see them again.
Then 16 more people, including dear Aunty, became ill and, when tested, were confirmed Ebola positive. Out of that number, only Marie, a 14-year-old girl who lives with us, and my aunt mercifully survived – or else I too would be an Ebola orphan. I guess I am the lucky one, but it is hard to see it like that.
In less than two weeks, 17 people died from five households, with nine more admitted to hospital. Next we saw a group of fearfully dressed men from the hospital. They entered our home and brought out the mattresses and bedding and set them all on fire, spraying inside all the bedrooms and parlour. I watched with tears in my eyes as they did the same thing in every house where someone had died or contracted the virus. That sight was very terrifying and we all wept.
Our community was quarantined from the rest of town and we were told that no one could leave or enter for 21 days. We were surrounded by police and military: it was scary as no one could buy or sell from within the “isolation”, nor could any business people come in to sell. People who attempted to sneak out, in need of food, were forced by the guards to return.
Even though my aunt had been discharged from the hospital, she was too weak to go in search for food or prepare any for the family so we really suffered from hunger. No one brought us food or water for the first two weeks of isolation. In the third week, a charity group brought bulgur, oil and beans.
We refused to eat the bulgur though, because it gives you a runny tummy; and if you have a runny tummy and are in an isolation zone they will definitely say you have Ebola and may take you away. So we bought gari (granular flour) throughout the three weeks because that was all my poor aunt could afford – it costs just 500Le (15 pence) for a cup that can feed three people for a meal.
Even now, with all this, there is a problem with educating people about Ebola. I just met two of my friends who told me about the illness of their uncle and how they were taking care of him at home, which they should not be doing as their uncle might have the Ebola virus.