Ebola response diaries: Nyema

November 24, 2014

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  • Nyema speaks with a woman in Monrovia to answer her questions about Ebola. "To stop the outbreak we need to reach more people and continue the communication about the virus — education on preventive measures, information on how to seek help, and what to do while waiting for help," he says. Photo: Mercy Corps

Our team in Liberia is working hard to equip two million people with the information they need to protect themselves from Ebola. These team members are more than response workers — they are members of the same communities they're helping.

Forty-two of our 47 staff on the ground are Liberian. Their courageous and determined efforts to end this outbreak and help their country recover are at the heart of our response.

Nyema worked primarily on Mercy Corps' programs that empower youth through social skills training. But now, his focus is stopping Ebola.

I heard about the Ebola outbreak in Liberia on the evening news of one of our national radio stations. According to the news report then, a lady suspected of having the Ebola virus had traveled from neighboring Guinea and was admitted at a hospital in Lofa, a northern county in Liberia that shares border with Guinea.

On hearing the news, I was both astounded and afraid. Surprised that the virus had traveled from south central Africa and had leapfrogged to the west — how? I had read of Ebola in a health journal years ago, and I was afraid because no cure or prevention medication for the virus had been found.

Initially there was disbelief in our community about Ebola in Liberia. I saw a couple of sick people in our community who almost died for fear that if they go to a hospital they would contract Ebola and die. Then an entire family was wiped out by Ebola. The father of this family had a clinic and treated someone who was sick with Ebola unknowingly. This is how he and his entire family came in contact with the virus.

Since that incident, everyone has treated each other with suspicion and mistrust in the community. Every day it’s a situation of 24/7 alertness. I have to always be conscious of not touching anyone around me and I constantly have to wash my hands. I always wear a jacket or long sleeves and long trousers when I go out for fear of touching or rubbing against others in the street, in the office or on a public transport. It’s difficult to keep up with this all of a sudden.

The outbreak has restricted my interactions with friends, co-workers, other professionals, community members and even with my family. I have restricted people from coming to my home and I have stopped visiting others — we now only talk by telephone if we must. Sometimes it creates a feeling of isolation and I know it’s a feeling shared by many others.

Economically, things are bit harder for my wife and I. She has almost lost her business and income. A lot of community members are not currently working. The economy is shrinking. The volume of trade has fallen. Loss of jobs and income has created economic hardship for the majority of people. I have seen the look on people faces — tired and frustrated with a prolonged situation. They have no clue when it’s going to end.

The awareness and sensitization campaigns have helped, and there is less and less denial and disbelief in communities. The information available now is more accurate, but there is a need to scale up the social mobilization efforts until every town, village, clan, community is reached. In places where the information is there and properly explained, the people are better able to protect themselves.

READ MORE: Quick facts about stopping Ebola ▸

To stop the outbreak we need to reach more people and continue the communication about the virus — education on preventive measures, information on how to seek help, and what to do while waiting for help. If we do all of that, there will be zero new infections and Liberia will end up Ebola-free.

Our work will contribute to rebuilding the lives of people and communities now affected by the sting of this Ebola crisis. I am motivated because I know without a shadow of doubt that there are lots of people who are in dire need of the support that our work provides.

To those who have contributed to Mercy Corps’ work here, I say thank you. We owe you a lifetime of gratitude. More importantly, you’ve have shown and taught us how to express love and concern for others, and how to respond to those in need.

How you can help

Ebola can be beat. You can help people survive this outbreak and give communities the tools needed to contain the disease. Send emergency relief and long-term solutions to families struggling with Ebola and other hardships around the world. Give now ▸