Ebola: Suffering and song in Sierra Leone

by Frankie TAGGART 08/16/2014 14:47 GMT Agence France-Presse

Kailahun, a poor but resourceful trading post like any other in Sierra Leone until a few short months ago, has found itself at the epicentre of the worst-ever outbreak of the feared Ebola virus. It and Kenema account for the lion’s share of Sierra Leone’s 810 cases and 384 deaths.

 “You cannot mess about here: this virus will kill you. One mistake, one wrong move, and you’re dead — that’s it,” a senior aid worker in Kailahun tells AFP.

Song and prayer

A walk through the steamy streets of Kailahun is an unexpectedly uplifting experience, given that almost everyone knows someone who has died of Ebola. Children play noisily to a soundtrack of fire finches, egrets and emerald cuckoos, chasing old tyres in the iron-rich red mud, while adults throng the streets exchanging money, black-market petrol and laughter. But the atmosphere changes a short walk uphill at the specialist Ebola treatment centre run by global aid charity Doctors without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF. Here, there is little joy, nor reason to laugh — only death and suffering.

The centre runs like a military camp, everyone following procedure to the letter, every patient and health worker divided by location and clothing according to their risk status. Patients brought to the centre leave with certificates confirming their recovery, or in heavily disinfected body bags. Most of her patients suffer severe diarrhoea, vomiting and agonising pain as their organs break down, which is eased by morphine and tramadol. “I’m feeling the pain. I have pain in my joints, which they are treating,” she tells AFP from behind two plastic fences that create a protective buffer zone a few feet wide. “The worst pain I feel though is whenever I see the other children here running around, sick with Ebola.”

Excerpted from source: http://reliefweb.int/report/sierra-leone/suffering-and-song-sierra-leones-ebola-hot-zone

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