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Update from the field: my Ebola experience

My Ebola Experience – the journey continues…

Following her post in February, Mango register member Margaret Otim updates us on her experiences of the Ebola crisis that hit Sierra Leone last year.

 

10 months straight in Sierra Leone without seeing my family has been hard, real hard.  Some of my friends said I was insane and sometimes I too, felt like I was losing my mind! But the joy of seeing the Ebola cases reducing across the country from January 2015 countered my homesickness. 
Hearing the WHO projecting that the country could be declared Ebola-free by the end of August was like morning dew to a thirsty man! In an effort to achieve this, the government has declared a 3-day period in March when everyone should stay in their homes in order for volunteers to visit and search for possible Ebola cases.
 

 

Whilst this is welcome news in the midst of all the anxiety, loss and frustration, the scars of Ebola will forever remain with the people of Sierra Leone and myself - long after I have left and long after the country is free of Ebola. For example, some habits like hugging and shaking hands have automatically died out over the course of this crisis. I do not hug people anymore, inside Sierra Leone and out, because my subconscious is always reminding me ‘Do Not Touch!’ Will the people of Sierra Leone ever shake hands or hug as generously as they did before? Time will tell… 

There is also the stigma attached to ‘Ebola Countries’ when you travel outside Sierra Leone. At some airports, travelers from Ebola-affected countries are directed to wash their hands and have their temperature taken; sanitizers are also handed out in good measure as soon as you leave the aircraft. Whilst this is understandable and clearly necessary in order to avoid the virus spreading, the fact that you are no longer allowed to pass through the usual terminals makes you feel like an outcast and breaks your spirit.  

Recently I attended a workshop in Senegal, one of the conditions for allowing participants from Ebola-affected countries was that our temperatures had to be taken twice a day by SOS medical personnel and this was done religiously throughout the week. On one of the days, a participant asked if I was sick and I had to explain why our temperatures were being taken – we became mini celebrities but for a unique reason. 

The Ebola experience has changed me and my view on life. Whatever decisions we make and whichever direction we take, we should always remember those whose lives depend on the decision-making of others.

My favourite Easter gift this year was to finally be with my family and share with them the experiences I have gained from the Ebola crisis.

 

To read the first part of Margaret's story click here.

 

 

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