The humid heat, the heavy sun and the hope – mainly the hope. When I first came to Liberia in 2006, peace and joy where at the center of the media’s attention: Liberia had elected a brainy president, Ms. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who finally would put an end to war, settle a peace process and bring prosperity. She was the African continent’s first female president. She ticked all the boxes.
Years later, things seemed to look better, but apparently not better enough. The health system couldn’t take the hit of the Ebola outbreak, which came in waves – starting in December last year, stopping, starting again in March, slowing down and finally exploding this July and August in Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia. The hope, the progress, and the growth all vanished into thin air along with foreign investors.
This is the start of Ebola’s ravages. My first day I go to the MSF Ebola Treatment Unit and see a young girl, with an orange t-shirt, sick, dying, alone. A few meters away, a taxi carries a dead body in the back – an old lady. Is it Ebola? Who knows? Total confusion and total fear. The centre is full, people work around the clock.
This is the grimmest landscape I have ever seen – ever. The hope is gone and with it all the gestures that make us human, that bond us as families, and as societies. We can’t touch each other anymore. Parents can’t hold their children, people can’t greet each other with hugs and handshakes, lovers can’t make love, children can’t bury their parents.
Then there are those workers, dressed in white suits – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), strange moonwalkers. They do this insane, incredible and dirty work – some for money, some out of dedication. It doesn’t matter. They are one of the many links of a chain, picking up the sick, carrying them away.