By Lauren Guerrido
In late March of 2014, Libera received it’s first case of the Ebola Virus. 4000-5000 people died in the two years of the outbreak. There are many misconceptions that the virus is due to people eating bush meat and being extremely unclean, but that is not the case.
I was talking to some of the women in the camp and we spoke of how Ebola came to be here in the country. The virus started in the neighboring country of Guinea which is north of Liberia. A merchant brought it over from the country when trying to sell goods here in Liberia. Ebola was the type of virus that spread from any kind of contact with other people. Shaking hands, sneezing, coughing, even something simple as exchanging monies or walking by someone in the market. The virus spread very quickly the capital city of Monrovia and the other 4 major cities in the country. The government tried to close the borders between the two countries to contain the virus, but people were extremely stubborn. They would cross underneath the bridge between Guinea and Liberia, and hide in the bushes along the river and along the border to cross over. This was because their businesses and income was dependent on the selling and trading of their goods.
The country was not equipped with the healthcare facilities to take on such a quick spreading virus. There are only two main hospital in Monrovia and over 1 million people live here. On top of that, ebola had the same symptoms as malaria and cholera. So if a person came to the hospital during the outbreak with a fever, the chills, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, they would assume they would have ebola without proper testing to discern the diseases. Doctors and nurses would leave them and just let them die. 4000-5000 people died over the almost two years of the outbreak. Because of it, schools were closed until the outbreak was controlled. So the women could not go to classes to continue their studies. It already takes 6-8 years to finish a bachelors degree here for women. Most of the women have to commute 1-2 hrs to school every day and also work part or full-time. Many have yet to continue their coursework since the outbreak subsided. Many lost multiple family member to the virus and had to take additional responsibilities to take care of their families. So the outbreak had a major impact on their access to their education.
One women spoke on how “GOD kept her family.” “Everyday we prayed that no one would die from the virus. My father was a government worker. My mother has a business exchanging goods. GOD was amazing in keeping my family safe.” Another spoke about the countriy’s reaction to the virus. “In different villages, towns, small cities, once someone was said to have Ebola, they would quarantine the whole area. No one was allowed in or out of the community. In some cases, the police had to be involved to keep the people from going ing an going. One day, they quarantined a community and it caused unrest in the area. Many wanted to fight the police to let them go home to their families. One 15 year old boy came home to find his community cut off and quarantined. He tried to get past the police to get home to his family, but they would not let him pass. After a strong between the two, the boy was shot in the leg. But to the lack of efficient roads and emergency services, the boy bled out in the street and died.”
The country has since then began to bounce back from the outbreak. However, many wish to never have to experience that horror again. The second Liberian civil war occurred from 1999-2003. Many people fled the country and between 150000-300000 people were killed. Despite this bloody conflict, many say they would rather experience a civil war again before another Ebola Virus. “Many would say they would rather go through a ciivl war. At least with the rebels, you can see the guns and bullets coming. With Ebola, you can’t see it. You don’t know who has it. You can’t see it coming. It was very scary and it made it stressful to live.”
Despite such a devastating event, the women are resilient and positive of their future and the future of Liberia. This event has reinforced their drive to get an education and make a change in their community so that this does not happen again. I am truly inspired by their optimism and determination to overcome and press forward with their goals and dreams.