Plight of African Nurses Risking Their Lives To Treat Ebola Patients Revealed
Shunned by their families, evicted from their homes and paid next to nothing
Nurses treating Ebola victims are routinely thrown out of rented homes
In Sierra Leone, many are shunned by their terrified friends and families
57 per cent of medics treating Ebola have succumbed to the disease
Liberia and Sierra Leone are the countries worst hit by the epidemic
staff room at Hastings Ebola Treatment Center in Western Rural Area,
Sierra Leone, is cramped, stuffy and hot from the sunlight flooding
through the window.
Nurses in blue scrubs squeeze onto the rickety beds and try to sleep during their break in the Green Zone.
they will go to the Yellow Zone, pull on their Personal Protective
Equipment (PPE) and go back to the wards - the Red Zone.
For many of these health workers, the
hospital is the only place where they are not shunned by the community
or their families. And for most, it is passion and not money that drives
'We rent houses and when [the landlords] know we’re working here, they give us notice,' says nurse Joya Koroma, 32.
we go to our families, they drive us out of their houses. Even our
relatives are afraid of us. We are doing it because we are trained to.
We have to serve humanity.'
Koroma and the rest of the staff haven't been paid in two weeks. The
clinic, which has 100 beds, and is treating patients - including several
children - ill with Ebola, is 100 per cent government funded, with no
aid agency money or funds.
a result, Ms Koroma and her colleagues are eating far less than they
need and are almost always exhausted but have nowhere safe to sleep.
Others like male nurse Alieu Kamara, 19, sleep overnight in the men’s staff room - just steps away from the patients they treat.
kicked me out, so this is why I stay here,' says Mr Kamara. 'This is
where I can sleep. Most of us here, our families have abandoned us
because of the good work we are doing.
'We are here to push the virus out of the country, you understand?'
the intensifying crisis, health workers in Sierra Leone, one of the
countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic, have been hamstrung by a
lack of resources and scant equipment - including protective clothing.
badly needed doctors and nurses make up a significant proportion of
fatalities, with an estimated 57 per cent of medics working with Ebola
patients eventually succumbing to the disease, according to the World
In total, say the most recent reports, 377 health workers across West Africa have succumbed to the virus, with 216 now dead.
Hastings, the sophisticated isolation units of London and Washington
seem very far away, and everyone is aware that being on the Ebola
frontline brings the greatest risk of all.
Yet despite the risks, Ms Koroma, Mr Karama and their colleagues get no extra help and no extra money for their efforts.
'We are hungry now,' says Ms Koroma. 'There’s no food. Since we started working here, we have no money for pay for anything.'
Gandlil Kallon is the District Social Mobilisation Coordinator for the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Western Rural Area.He says the challenges for health centres and their workers are still emerging, with many more resources needed.
we speak now, some of our health staff residing in rented houses within
the city are faced with the challenge of being evicted from those
'They are being given eviction notices. There are so many challenges that will emerge.'
with attention switching to the spread of the virus - and in particular
whether the disease will reach Britain, their plight is being ignored.
Tanya Barron, CEO of Plan UK, is a mistake because the only 'truly
effective' way to prevent Ebola from reaching Britain is to tackle the
crisis in West Africa.
the Government introduces more measures to try and prevent the arrival
of Ebola in this country, it would be fatal to forget that the best way
to help the UK is to help West Africa,' she says.
is an outbreak that needs tackling at source, and in order to change
the course of the crisis, we mustn't simply hunker down in developed
course it is important for the UK government to protect people here,
but the only truly effective way of doing so in the long-term is to
bring this crisis under control in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. We
must break the chain of infection.''The
outbreak is affecting the lives of children, parents and their
communities in diverse ways,' added Farai Zisengwe, who works for the
charity in Sierra Leone.
'For the health workers working at the front line of the outbreak, it is having a direct effect on them and their families.
'Many of them are being separated from their homes, close family and children, with knock on effects across the community.'
the holding centre in Newton, Western Rural Area, where people
suspected of having Ebola are brought before being treated, nurse
Fatumata Koroma, 28, supervises the red zone.She says the health workers are terrified of contracting the virus, but are also determined to beat it and save their patients.
we started [the staff] were afraid,' says Koroma from the makeshift
plastic hut that serves as a staff work room at the centre.
'Now they are getting used to it, but they are still afraid because of our colleagues that have now been infected.
our war. There’s no way to escape this war, we just have to fight it.
It’s a war for us because you can’t touch your close relatives, neither
your mother nor your sister.
'But I’m ready to fight this war, I’m ready for it.'