AFTER EBOLA

Sierra Leone, a small West-African coastal country, was hit by a catastrophe that made headlines all over the world. Ebola. It crossed the borders from Guinea to Sierra Leone in spring 2014. Towards autumn, it started to look that the spread of the virus was about to spiral out of control. There was urgent need for action.

International help was deployed to the country. Local operators bent over backwards. Sierra Leone Red Cross started to recruit people to join a battle where the enemy was invisible but surely fatal. Any volunteers?

Yes. Thousands.

“If I don’t do it, who will do it?” became a mantra that volunteers repeated to keep their motivation up. And really, it is a good question. If no volunteers had done what they did, Ebola would still be here. Here, and most likely there, too. However, stopping the spread of the disease did not happen without a price. Volunteers paid a heavy toll for their services. The mental burden of the work they did still haunts many of them.

(Sierra Leone, 2016 || For Red Cross)

In Kenema, six hours drive away from the capital Freetown, next to the place where Red Cross Ebola Treatment Centre located, is an Ebola cemetery. This is the final resting place of around 265 people who were killed by Ebola. No one is officially assigned to take care of the place, so it's starting to look a bit wild. Family members often don't have a chance to visit the cemetery because of long distances and lack of public transportation. In some cases there even aren't any family members left to visit, because the whole family have died of Ebola.

Mariama Manneh, the first woman to join the Red Cross burial teams, buried 16 people on her own birthday. There were many children among them. She is a mother herself. Manneh joined the Red Cross burial teams because she wanted to maintain the dignity of the women who had died of Ebola. No one asked her to join, it was her own decision. She says that her family were terrified when she told them about her plan. She had to move out of her home and her little daughter was taken away from her. She felt stigmatized and lonely. Other members of the burial team were the only ones she could spend time with.

During the outbreak, many remote communities were hard to reach due to the bad condition of jungle roads. Motorbikes and boats were used to deliver help and, if nothing else worked, volunteers went by foot.

Kadiatu Bangura was nine years old when she contracted Ebola from her father. She was treated in the Red Cross Ebola Treatment Centre in Kenema in September 2014. “They took very good care of me. I’m missing them so much. I will never forget them.” Bangura's father and many other family members died of Ebola.

Friends having a relaxed afternoon in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Tourists have not yet found their way to the stunning beaches of Freetown, so locals can have them fully for themselves. Life after Ebola goes on.

Haja Kargbo survived from Ebola, but is tired of talking about it. Wounds are not healed. She lost many family members, among them her husband and two children. Haja was treated in the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kenema, and after her recovery she started volunteering. She named her newborn baby after a Red Cross worker who has been helping and supporting her throughout the aftermath of the recovery.