SA woman fleeing Sierra Leone speaks to Health24

We spoke to a source, who wants to remain anonymous, about just what it's like on the ground in Sierra Leone where almost 250 people have died of the disease.

1.)    Firstly, how did you come to live in Sierra Leone and how long have you been there for?

My husband was offered a job here and has been here since 2010. My son and I moved here in 2011.

2.)    When did you first become aware of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone?

In March 2014 when the first cases appeared. 

3.)    Can you briefly describe the national attitude towards the outbreak. Are people panicking, or do they think it’s being blown out of proportion? Do they seem to understand the disease?

A lot of the locals are saying it's a "white-man disease" set up to kill them off. Others are saying it's the white man's way of breaking down their customs and traditions. Many of the people in the East seem to be understanding it now, in the sense that they have seen many people dying, and are aware how to prevent it. But generally the rest of the people don't or won't understand. 

I stood talking to some of my husband's workers this morning explaining to them about cleaning with bleach, not sharing food, etc. Sone were more receptive than others and others were laughing at me. They clearly haven't seen it in full force.

4.)    Why did you decide to temporarily leave Sierra Leone? When will you go back?

When the first cases were reported in the town nearest to us we decided that my son and I will fly tomorrow. We will consider returning in October IF the situation has settled. Otherwise we will stay out until my husband feels we're safe to come back.

5.)    What is the government doing to help curb the outbreak, does it seem effective? Are international aid agencies (Medecins sans Frontiere etc) making a difference?

The government has put checkpoints in place on all main roads leaving the Eastern Region. Schools, social gatherings, market places have all been closed down. The president is due to make an announcement soon. I read an article somewhere which says that he has a plan to stop it within 60-90 days. 

I am sure the other organisations are making a difference, but they are battling as there aren't enough resources.

6.)    Do you know anyone who has or has had Ebola? 

Thankfully I do not know anyone who has had Ebola, because it has been far away until very recently. I pray for protection over those close to me.

7.)    What is Sierra Leone’s healthcare system like?

The healthcare system is, like in any poor country, leaving a lot to be desired. The Kenema Institute is doing what they can to treat the patients effectively. Over 100 patients have survived the disease.

8.)    How are you travelling back to SA?

We are flying. My son and I have undergone an extensive medical examination by a doctor. We have also not been in physical contact with any people for weeks, thus I know we are NOT carrying the virus and will NOT be bringing it back to SA.

Follow the Ebola crisis on News24's Ebola and Africa topic hubs.

Read more:
Could Ebola hit SA? 
Nigerian hospital quarantined after first Ebola death 
This is the worst Ebola outbreak ever

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