“Trying to be fine”

ebola quarantine africa

“What are we going to do? People are not coming to help us. We are doomed”. These are words spoken by a bright young Sierra Leonean man to me during my last shift at a hospital in Sierra Leone. A man blessed (or cursed) with the foresight to see what lies in the future for his country and him. A man, whose hopes and dreams have been destroyed and life will be forever changed by one thing.

Ebola.

ebola tee

A virus which has evoked insurmountable fear in everyone and generated mass paranoia outside West Africa has parachuted Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia into the eye of the world. Many who have not even heard about these countries, let alone realize that the African continent is much more than just these, are now aware because they are stricken with unfounded fear of people returning from West Africa. We follow the progress of this unprecedented outbreak on the news, we gasp and worry about the statistics showing increasing numbers of positive cases and deaths, we criticize and make judgements on how this outbreak is being handled by the powers that be, we read harrowing accounts about the challenges of being in an Ebola management centre by people on the frontline, we hear touching stories about individuals who have survived Ebola and entire families that have lost their lives to Ebola and we feel sorry for them.

ebola hysteria MAD

And then we close the newspaper or turn off the television and go back to our normal lives. Our Ebola-free lives. Where bodily contact will not possibly infect you and you are free to hug and kiss your loved ones, where community living is still not endangering your life and you can share your food and a joke and laugh together instead of having to choose to abstain from the normal living practices that you have been used to for generations in order to prevent yourself from getting infected by the deadly Ebola; where your future is not hanging by a thread because you no longer have a job, a job that puts food on the table. Yes, we have none of that.

good day

But what about the West Africans? What if your life is not Ebola-free and you cannot resume living your normal life because Ebola has enveloped your world? What then? How do you go on?

Sierra Leone

Underneath the “sexiness” and labelled-heroism of battling Ebola, the few touching tales that has caught the journalist’s attention and the fear and paranoia that is being emanated to outsiders, we forget about the remaining population – the local people who have nowhere to go and “leaving West Africa because there is Ebola everywhere” is not an option for them. These are the people who have to try and live their lives as normally as possible, even with the threat of Ebola looming around the corner because life needs to go on. This outbreak is not going to be over in a matter of months, and people cannot put their lives on hold indefinitely. And the uncertainty of the future makes it impossible to have any plans as the country is not going to be the same even after the Ebola outbreak is over. The healthcare system has collapsed and rebuilding it will be difficult with the loss of so many healthcare professionals when there were already not enough to begin with, families have been ripped apart and Ebola has orphaned countless number of young children whose welfare remains in question, business and economical development will be severely stunted and education has come to a halt. These countries will be set back many many years and the West Africans will have no choice but to pick up the pieces and move on, because that is what needs to be done, move on.

Sierra Leone 2014
I have always thought that if there was an apocalypse or worse yet, a zombie attack, I want to be one of the first to perish, because I cannot imagine being one of the few survivors, trying to face the impending doom alone or left to live in a world that has been destroyed and completely foreign to me. This is only in my hypothetical thoughts. But for my friend, this bright young Sierra Leonean man who had big dreams and aspirations for a better future for him and his family, this is now his reality. And for the rest of the West Africans whose stories we will never ever hear, because not everyone’s story is spectacular or touching enough to be newsworthy, but whose ordinary lives are filled with happiness and pain as real as yours and mine, they are just “trying to be fine”.

everyday living

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2 Responses to ““Trying to be fine””

  1. pf, nice write-up. The thing about Ebola is that it is an old disease. We knew about it since 1976, when two outbreaks happened back to back in Zaire and Sudan. We had several outbreaks since then. The question is why the heck hasn’t a single vaccine or drug been developed?? The answer is money!! These places are the poorest countries in the world and people (the pharmaceutical companies) cannot make money out of these people. So the needless sufferings and death is the result of man, not God. More specifically, the stupidity of man. Things happen for a reason Haiz!! :(. Also, my research tells me that an Ebola vaccine is not hard to develop at all, unlike that of HIV.

    BTW: I really admire you guys and gals in the nursing and medical fields for all your courage and commitments. I was reading how the nurses and docs were taking care of an infected man in Texas who kept puking and having diarrhea till he finally died. Some of the nurses were crying with him.

    Like

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