Despite reports of a drastic reduction in the number of reported Ebola cases in Liberia, the people of a small town in Grand Cape Mount County say life is a true horror story for them.
The deadly Ebola virus seems to have found a new epicenter 47 miles away from Monrovia, in a small town called Jene-wonde. On Saturday, Juma Mansaray watched as the burial team took away her mother and aged Grandmother for burial in the forest. Jebbeh Mansaray and her aged mother Miatta Mansaray are among almost thirty other persons from the small town who have been buried in unmarked graves on a once agricultural farmland.
Juma wails with the rest of the other women, as the men look on without hope, without anyone to turn to. She said the community has been ostracized from the rest of its neighbors. Left to fend for her five children, Juma said the community is devastated.
“Right now we’re frustrated in this town. Everywhere we go the people will drive us away,” she said. “We are like outcasts; we can’t even go to the local market to buy pepper or food because people think we are cursed. We don’t know what to do. Most of our relatives in other areas don’t want to see us. If we go to visit them, they will drive us, so we are stuck here.”
The disease started to spread in the town in September when a schoolteacher Saidu Ballah, a resident of the town brought his sick daughter from the city (Monrovia). Ballah is said to have taken his daughter to a local herbalist who refused to treat her. He then brought her home and when she died, Ballah, along with some of the town’s people secretly buried her. Residents said seven days after the burial, Ballahand almost his entire family, except for one person died. Since then, the disease has put the community in complete agony and pain.
Denial is rife
Abdullai Kamara is team leader of Burial Team A of Grand Cape Mount County Ebola Burial Team, he said the people have been stubborn and in constant denial that Ebola exists. He said they continued to bury secretly and bathes the dead, according to Islamic tradition despite repeated warnings. He said the burial team on many occasions has been chased out of the town.
“There was too much denial here. People are dying and we are burying them, but to admit, people overlooked the issue from the beginning,” he said. “Our people played deaf ear to what was happening. They denied the truth. There was a lot of tussle when we come here when we come to bury. We are facing real difficulties here. Sometimes if the police don’t come with us, we can’t bury here. This is my town, but our people blundered.”
On Saturday as the team prepared the first of two dead women from the same family for burial, the residents of the compound resisted as one of the men in PPE tried to spray concentrated chlorine around the yard to disinfect it. One man only identified as Stephen said the chlorine will make their children sick, he alleged that it is the chlorine that has been killing residents and not Ebola.
“You know we get small, small children in this yard, their system is not like us the big people; so I just want for them to spray in the room, where the body is and just stop there,” said Stephen.
“When it affects them and everybody gets sick tomorrow, they will say that it is Ebola. It is better for my place to be like this. Yesterday they took our brother, before they reached the rubber farm he died. He was crying saying the Ambulance is hot and the chlorine scent is strong.” But the Town is crying out for help because people are dying everyday. Momo Sheriff, a resident of the Town lost his son on Friday; he wants the government to help them.
“Our people are just dying. They said it is Ebola and we know it is real, but there is nothing we can do. We have no way to manage it. We have no healthcare here. If the government does not take action, everybody will die in this town. We are burying two dead bodies today, we don’t know who it will be tomorrow. Everyday we have to cry.”
The town is in deep anguish said Town Chief Jebbeh Sannoh. She said the burden in this time of grief in her town is too heavy. She said the community is traumatized and it will take the effort of the county and national government to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. The virus has a fatality rate of 90% in the town at the moment.
‘Government Should Come’
“My people just dying. Sometimes their stomach can run, sometimes they can vomit and have fever, that is what is killing them,” she said. “The government should come in and help; the senators, representatives, all of them should come in and help. The situation is very bad.
James Jallah Paul, resident of the town with a population of over 300 persons, said if care is not taken, the town could be wiped off the face of the earth by the deadly Ebola virus. “We are begging the government to come to our rescue. If the government does not come to our rescue, we will finish (die) here; this place will be an empty space,” said Jallah.
“We are all afraid of Ebola, because it is quick to damage people. Everybody here is scared; so if somebody is sick, no one dares go around them to help.” Some people have already begun fleeing the town as the disease continues its killing spree. A family was seen with suit cases leaving for Monrovia because of the situation. The family whose name is withheld stated that they do not want to die from Ebola; so to leave is the best option.
“We can’t stay here. The death is too much here, if we stay here, who knows, we will die, we don’t want to die,” said a male member of the family. The situation in Jenewonde is dire and if nothing is done as the residents said, to put the outbreak under control, that town could be the beginning of another seven months of fighting the deadly Ebola virus.