Ebola Is Here
Happy Holiday. Avoid greetings and hugs. Ebola is here.
This weekend was Eid Al Adha and that was the message being sent to everyone by a local mobile phone carrier. The message is stangely festive and sinister at the same time.
Around town, everyone is dressed in their finest clothes; brightly coloured outfits and headwear so common in West African countries. Boys in suits and girls in frilly pink dresses holding the hands of their parents as they walk along the streets to their relatives’ homes to wish them Eid greetings. They shouldn’t be holding hands though, Ebola is here.
Ebola is transmitted via body fluids, which includes everything from blood and vomit to sweat and tears. Tears! Can you believe it? If you’re infected, and you cry, your tears could technically transmit the virus (though the likelihood of this is very, very slim).
From looking at everyone in their festive finest, you would never know that they are currently facing the worst outbreak of the deadly virus, ever. To date, over 3,400 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have died from Ebola.
Life and culture don’t stop because there is Ebola. There are still birthdays, weddings, births and of course deaths. Can you imagine what it would be like not to be able to hold your baby niece in your arms? To not console your mother when your brother dies? Of course you can’t, and neither can they. But somehow, with the help of the many, many sensitization teams going out there, affected communities are learning to abandon everything that they know and everything that they believe, so that we can contain this deadly virus.
I just received another message: Avoid touching if possible. But if essential, wash your hands before and after with soap.
Community sensitization teams, international humanitarians, government, private companies; everyone is contributing what they can, where they can to this fight. We have to. Ebola is here.
By Mariko Hall, deployed as ETC Coordinator, Guinea