Monday, October 13, 2014

Ebola – as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old from Sierra Leone/ Followed by Australia's Response to the crisis

As the virus shows no sign of halting its relentless march, Bintu Sannoh describes its devastating impact on her community
Bintu Sannoh The Observer October 12, 2014 Jump to comments (146)

The Kenema community faces an uncertain future. Photograph: Josta Hopps/Street Child
Ebola is not a pleasing name to me. In fact, I hate even to hear the word – it has destroyed my family and education. Life was hard but OK: I live with my aunt and many family members in a big compound; we have always been poor but there was happiness. But now we are terrified. Too many people, friends and families, have died and are still dying. And the number of orphans increases on a daily basis.
When Ebola first arrived in my country, we weren’t too worried. Then came ‘sensitisation’ – all the community groups and NGOs running around talking about Ebola. But many refused to believe in the danger and even tried to make politics out of it. We had a riot in Kenema, under the banner of ‘Ebola is not real’. Some said the government does not care about Ebola because the government is from the north and the virus is in the east (home of the opposition party). Others said it was because doctors wanted your blood. There were so many stories and no one took Ebola too seriously.
Then, in early August, the situation changed. The government banned all movements in and out of Kenema and Kailahun districts. This hurt everyone, not just those with Ebola, as almost everything came to a standstill. We were trapped – and still are. My aunt, who used to go to the trade fair to buy local goods at low prices, could no longer travel. We had less money at home – like everyone apart from the rich people who Aunty said made money because of high prices.
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…………
Ebola crisis appeal:
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Ebola crisis: Australia won’t send doctors into harm’s way, says Abbott
International health organisations have criticised Australia’s ‘underwhelming’ response to the outbreak in west Africa
Michael Safi October 12, 2014

Sophia Doe sits with her grandchildren while watching the arrival of an Ebola team to take away the body of her daughter, Mekie Nagbe, in Monrovia, Liberia. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
The Australian government will not send doctors or nurses to west Africa to help contain the Ebola crisis until it is certain ‘all of the risks are being properly managed’, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, has said.
Figures released on Saturday by the World Health Organisation show that more than 4,000 people have died in the Ebola epidemic that broke out in west Africa in March, out of a total of 8,399 registered cases. The death toll includes 233 health workers.
International health organisations such as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) have criticised the Abbott government’s ‘underwhelming’ response to the outbreak, which has included cash grants to MSF, the World Health Organisation and British front line efforts in Sierra Leone – but no Australian medical personnel.
Save the Children has called on the government to follow the lead of the Obama administration and send troops to help manage the response to the epidemic, which has claimed over 2,300 lives in Liberia alone.
But Abbott said on Sunday that the latest death toll would not change the government’s view on sending Australian health workers……….
Abbott said he ‘admired the selfless humanitarianism’ of the dozens of Australian doctors and nurses currently working in west Africa with non-government organisations. But there was ‘a world of difference’ between that and ‘ordering Australian personnel to go into a situation without the kind of risk minimisation strategies that any responsible Australian government would have to put it place’……….
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