Life with Ebola: ‘Shortages, starvations and sufferings’

February 13, 2015

Travel restrictions were recently lifted in Sierra Leone, where Ebola cases haven’t stopped but have slowed significantly. The lifting of the restrictions should allow commerce and food to flow more freely throughout the country. Below is an account from Sullay Turay, our lead representative on the ground in Bauya, Sierra Leone, about what the past few months have been like living under the constant threat of Ebola.

The locking down/quarantine for months with travel restrictions is really not easy. Moyamba District, where Bauya is located, was one of the quarantined district. Bauya and the Kongbora Chiefdom is surrounded by five chiefdoms. With Ebola positive cases going through these chiefdoms you have to get a travel pass from the chiefdom Ebola Task Force, and traveling from one district to another you have to get a district travel pass, which will be signed by the district medical officer and the office of national security. To get the district travel pass, the paramount chief or councilor will have to apply on your behalf or your organization. Going through that process is very tedious and frustrating.

There were military, police and chiefdom task force personnel controlling these checkpoints with infrared thermometer to check your temperature, and a bucket with water and chlorine or soap to washed your hands. These security personnels enforced the travel restrictions to the letter.

With this travel restrictions, vehicles, motorbikes and persons are not allowed to pass through these checkpoints into villages, towns, chiefdoms and districts without a valid travel pass. Because of this travel restrictions stated above, it affects all aspects of life. Families and love ones were separated from one another, as for me, I was unable to see my family for months.

Business people were unable to move their wares and foodstuff into villages, towns, chiefdoms and districts. That causes scarcity and price hikes. That results in food shortages, starvations and sufferings to the people. No food help was given to the people. Even the Christmas season was celebrated silently, no traveling, no partying, no dancing or outing. After church service on Christmas Day, everybody was ordered to get indoors, pray and reflect on the Ebola virus diseases, and no New Year Watch Night services were observed, which is a tradition here to end a year and begin the new year in church. During that night service, both Christians and Muslims usually attend.

What even is more disturbing and traumatizing is the [racing] of ambulances through Bauya (Kongbora Chiefdom) into the surrounding chiefdoms to get the sick into Ebola treatment centre in Moyamba. They will [run] that route four to six times a day with high speed and sirens blaring. At times the ambulance attendant will discard their used gloves on the roadside or in the bush. One day, an ambulance driver wanted to wash the ambulance in a stream where the villagers are fetching water to drink, cook, wash and laundry. The villagers were very furious and wanted to beat up and burn the ambulance. Was it not for the timely intervention of the town and paramount chief, it would have been a disaster. The motive of the driver to wash the ambulance in that stream was not known, but it would have been a disaster again if the driver had washed that vehicle in that stream. The paramount chief complained to the Ebola District Task Force to stop the drivers not to discard used gloves and wash their vehicles in streams.

Strict by-laws by the Kongbora Chiefdom Ebola Task Force and the grace of God prevent Ebola of entering the chiefdom. The locking-down, quarantine and travel restrictions was not easy, but if it the price we have to pay for the Ebola virus diseases to be put under control, it worth it.

Submitted by Sullay Osman Turay