Ebola has destroyed lives across West Africa. It has torn families apart, stopped kids from going to school and left orphans to seek new homes. BRAC have been working with local partners in Nieni Chiefdom, Koinadugu district – the largest and most remote area of Sierra Leone.
We are supporting three community care centres in a town called Kumala, tucked away in the jungle. Kumala means ‘a person who talks too much’ because it was first settled by a man who was said to be very talkative.
The care centres have seen 106 cases of Ebola over the last fifteen months. While the international community is poised to welcome a post-Ebola Sierra Leone and start work rebuilding a decimated health system and growing livelihoods, members of Kumala tell us about their battles with the deadly disease.
“The majority of people here didn’t believe the virus was real. After the first two people died, people started believing. People started to panic. As soon as anyone tested positive they assumed they were dead.
My Mother died of Ebola and I’d had contact with her whilst she was ill. I was put in quarantine for 15 days. I started getting joint pain and I knew I also had the disease, even before I was tested for it.
We’d been in Freetown, before Ebola came to Sierra Leone. When it came, we were told not to eat bushmeat, but that was it. We moved from Freetown up to Kumala, but my Mother got ill.
They took me to Bo. I was there for 14 days. I was so happy when I got the all clear – although my Mother had died, I had other family – so it was a happy day for me. Everybody welcomed me back. I’m a student; I’m going to return to school to finish my education.”
“Someone came from Kono district, and they were taking him to the hospital at Kabala. He died on the way, and the people took him for burial. They didn’t know. Then his remains tested positive.
One of the ladies who helped wash him before burial came to Kumala. Her name was Majory. When she became sick the ladies here went to comfort her — they didn’t know it was Ebola. She died soon after.
We lost 33 people here in Kumala — everyone who had contact with Majory died. Then people came and told us not to touch ill or dead people and that we should not perform our burial rituals. After the centre opened, everyone who got ill went to the centre.”
“When I tested positive for Ebola, my limbs went weak and I was very sad. My husband died of the disease, so I was terrified. I was taken to the treatment centre in Bo. When I got the news that I was clear of Ebola, I danced. I was so relieved. When I got back to Kumala, people came to see me, and they welcomed me home and held me.”
“My parents both died of Ebola. I was quarantined for 21 days. I was so scared while I was there, and every day I thought I’d be ill. I was so happy when I was cleared. I’m being looked after by my caretaker now. I’m looking forward to going back to school.”
“I’ve been the principal at the school since 2005. During the war, I was with Christian Extensions Services. The day the RUF hit Yiffin, I was here for the weekend, but I’d just gone to the bush when they came. They burnt the whole town and killed a lot of people. Eventually they gained control over the whole district, and I fled to Freetown. After the war, I came back to Koinadugu to help teach, and they asked me to be the head teacher here.
When Ebola hit, it was so disheartening. It was like the world had been turned upside down again — back to the bad days. At first it was only in the east, but then it came here — we had to close for the good of our pupils. Although our district was badly affected, our town didn’t get touched — it came within four miles, but stopped there. Now we’re breathing a sigh of relief, because it’s nearly over. It’s left a lot of problems for us though. We have a six month long gap in the learning of the students. We also didn’t receive school fees during that time so we might have to shut down again because of the lack of money.”