What is Ebola?
The Ebola virus causes viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF), which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), refers to a group of viruses that affect multiple organ systems in the body and are often accompanied by bleeding.
The virus is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), where one of the first outbreaks occurred in 1976. The same year there was another outbreak in Sudan.
The WHO says there are five different strains of the virus — named after the areas they originated in. Three of these have been associated with large outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever in Africa. These are the Bundibugyo — an area of Uganda where the virus was discovered in 2007 — Sudan and Zaire sub-types.Ebola epidemic ‘out of control’
There has been a solitary case of Ivory Coast Ebola. This subtype was discovered when a researcher studying…
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As the death toll rises, fearful communities in Sierra Leone are torn apart by the Ebola virus.
Kenema, Sierra Leone – Until Friday, Hawa Daboh lived with 25 others in an unpainted concrete house in Sierra Leone’s third largest city, Kenema. Now she lives with 24. Usually known for its diamonds, Kenema has become the nerve centre for the fight against what is now the worst outbreak of Ebola on record, which last Friday claimed the life of Alpha Lansana, Hawa’s stepfather.
Ebola has now killed 467 people across Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia and infected many more. In Sierra Leone alone, 99 people have died – and for the first time, President Ernest Bai Koroma commented on the disease on Wednesday: “Ebola is real. Ebola kills,” he said.
But Ebola does not simply kill. It spreads fear and mistrust among friends, divides communities, destroys livelihoods and puts a stop to education. For the residents of Hawa’s peaceful, suburban home, it has changed everything.
“It affects us bad,” Hawa told Al Jazeera. “Now there is nobody to help us. And the children are out of school.” Being associated with someone who died of Ebola has made the family social outcasts. All of them were tested for the disease after Lansana’s death and all came out negative.
But unable to get a medical certificate to prove it, this has had little impact on how they are treated. Even friends have stopped visiting them. If family members visit, neighbours on the street say they will be kicked out.
“E no easy,” said Hawa’s aunt, Aminatta, in the local Krio language. She and other women in the family used to make a little money from trading at the market, she explains, indicating the woven wicker basket she used to sell. Now nobody will buy their products and the small revenue they brought in has disappeared.
Lansana had been the main breadwinner of the family, holding down a coveted job as a laboratory technician at the local hospital. Over the course of a few days, the family’s financial security crashed.
Shunned and shut out
Across the street, one man who wished to remain anonymous to avoid the stigma of being associated with the disease, tells a harrowing story. A resident at the family compound, feeling unwell, went for testing at the local hospital, where she was diagnosed with typhoid, a common complaint in subtropical Sierra Leone. And so relieved family members went to visit her. By the time medical staff realised the disease was in fact Ebola, seven members of her family had also contracted it. Four are now dead. Three others are at the hospital being treated.
As in Hawa’s home across the street, the remaining family members have been ostracised. The children, who tested negative, requested certificates so that they might be able to sit exams – but none was granted. One of Ebola’s cruelties is that it is spread through contact with the fluids of an infected person, which means that friends and family are infecting each other, parents passing the disease on to children.
The disease has hit health workers particularly hard. When Al Jazeera visited the Kenema government hospital on Monday, workers from the Ebola ward were on strike. “For now, no driver will go to pick up a case,” said one striking nurse.
Seven of their colleagues, including an ambulance driver, have now died from the disease – and so they decided that 100,000 leones ($23) was not sufficient compensation for the risks of dealing with Ebola.
Many of them, fully trained and certified, have long been working unpaid at the hospital. The head matron told Al Jazeera the strike had been resolved by the end of the day.
They, too, feel the force of the Ebola stigma, simply for having been in close proximity to the disease. One nurse told of being kicked out of the house by her husband as a result of her work.
Fufu and Light Soup.
A friend of mine took me to a restaurant to sample some fufu and light soup.
Ghanaian fufu is made from boiled cassava and unripe/semi-ripe plantain pounded into a dough.
It is usually served with a thin soup made with tomatoes, onions and meat (usually beef) and it is very similar to pepper soup.
I can’t say I’m a fan of this dish because I’m not a fan of pepper soup either, but it really makes for a hearty lunch.
I was KO’ed after that meal and I really couldn’t finish the whole thing because it is served in MASSIVE portions.
I actually had enough time to take a pic just before I dug in:
Peace and happiness to all Muslims during this holy month. Ameen.
So I’ve been lethargic all day. I finally decided to snap out of this lassitude and go to town for a few things.
Turns out I was too slow and the rain has caught up with me right in the middle of town. I shouldn’t be surprised.
It is the rainy season and it was gloomy before I even left. I was and still am on the hunt for shampoo and conditioner so come rain or shine (which it has), I must complete my mission…!
So I’m rushing through town as the fat raindrops start falling. That’s when I knew I was in trouble.
I stopped in front of a shop intending just ride out the storm. I looked behind me and the shopkeeper was looking at me like ‘I know how you feel’.
Bless him, he insisted that I wait inside his shop until the rain ceased. He offered me a chair to sit and I am still here waiting for this rain to stop.
This is just a small example of the kindness that comes effortlessly to most Ghanaians.
Update: I managed to get some shampoo and olive oil in the end..!
The food in Ghana is pretty awesome..!
A few days after I arrived, a relative of mine took me for my first taste of street food. Banku and tilapia.
Finished mine before I even thought of taking a picture. I’ll post a picture below.
Banku is made from corn dough and if you are familiar with fufu (cassava dough), it looks the same, the texture is roughly the same but the taste is different with banku having a bit of a tang.
The tilapia is usually grilled to perfection with some (sexy) spices added. There is usually a tasty side sauce of pepper and shito.
That has to be my favourite fish even though there are several others. Will post about a different dish every now and then.
Pic taken from http://www.eatalleyeatery.getafricaonline.com.