May 9 - Day 42!
In October/November 2015, WHO predicted that more than one million people across the West Africa sub-region would be infected with the Ebola virus by January 2015. Another prediction was that we would have more than 50,000 deaths from Ebola by the end of 2014. And at the time, Liberia was the epicenter of the devastating outbreak.
To say we were all terrified would be to understate the severity of the situation. People were becoming infected at an alarming rate and the death toll quickly rose to more than 100 deaths a day.
ActionAid responded to the crisis by training and supporting volunteers to carry out social mobilization and health promotion campaigns, delivering emergency relief supplies (food and hygiene materials) to families in quarantine; delivering clothing, hygiene and food supplies to patients and supporting county health teams in managing the crisis. In August 2014, I joined ActionAid to support the Ebola response activities being carried out. My role was to travel with the Ebola response team to document what was happening and tell people’s stories to the world.
Often when we went out to work, we encountered heartbreaking situations. Many of those memories will live with me forever. I remember seeing a six months old baby boy whose mother had died from Ebola. He had been found suckling on her dead body when the Ebola response team from the Ministry of Health arrived. When I saw him, he had nearly completed the 21 days monitoring period and he was in good health, but he had no one to claim him and people in the community where his mother lived out rightly objected to him being brought back to the area. I felt like my heart would break into a million pieces as I listened to his story. Here was a precious little baby being completely rejected with no one to care for him.
When I think about the lives that were lost during the outbreak, I am saddened at that help came too late for them. So many people, like Dr Thomas Scotland, left behind families that will have to live with the pain of losing them forever.
Many days, we all went home came home exhausted and incredibly sad. There was so much loss, so much pain and so much despair happening. But we kept on doing what we had to do.
Today, as Liberia reaches 42 days with no new confirmed cases of Ebola, I am proud that ActionAid Liberia helped to contribute to this incredible outcome. And when I think of how the predictions of infection and death across Liberia and West Africa were so dire, I am so incredibly proud that we were able to defy the odds and change the situation.
We are not completely out of the woods yet – our neighbors Sierra Leone and Guinea are still experiencing cases. So we must not slack on the safe hygiene and health practices that helped us reach Day 42.