Freetown’s Ebola Detectives – ‘There Is Still a Trust Problem’

At a summit in Conakry this past weekend, the leaders of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone pledged to eradicate Ebola within 60 days. But how, when as many as 15 cases per day are still being recorded in Sierra Leone? Ebola Deeply met Foday Mansaray, the leader of a house-to-house search team tasked with detecting Freetown’s remaining cases.

Ebola Deeply: What do you usually tell people when you visit their homes?

Mansaray: We tell them to bring out any sick people, and identify visitors to their homes, so we can assess them and report them to the appropriate authorities. If they are sick, an ambulance will come and take them. I have found many sick people since I started. Some of these people tested positive for Ebola. We have a thermometer that we use to test people’s temperatures. If the temperature is 38.9 degrees Centigrade then there is a problem. We ask the person to relax, and then we do a second and third test. If it remains high, we call the appropriate officials. The normal temperature should be somewhere around 36.5 degrees Centigrade.

Ebola Deeply: What are the biggest challenges in this line of work?

Mansaray: There are so many challenges. The main one is that some people will not even allow us to enter their homes, not to mention recording data about them. We don’t have a proper identification system, so many people won’t accept who we are and why we are there.

Sometimes family members hide sick people, to the detriment of other members of the family. But through our work, it is possible for us to pick out these sick people. Even if they attempt to run away, we have volunteers who are direct surveillance officers of that community. It is easy for us to trace these people.

There are still people out there who are not fully aware that Ebola is a very deadly virus, and that they could easily get infected if they have contact with a patient. Some people worry that we might bring Ebola into their homes after visiting other houses. Some people are very hostile to us. We don’t feel safe.

Ebola Deeply: What do you mean by that?

Mansaray: There is still a trust problem. People are suspicious of us. We’re working as part of the government’s Operation Surge, but not everyone understands this. Naturally, people don’t like other people barging into their homes, but this is an emergency.

Ebola Deeply: Do you have the necessary protective gear?

Mansaray: Not exactly, but we have gloves and hand sanitizer. This is a risky job. There are still stubborn people who will try to come closer to you, and even touch you, and you don’t know their status. It is risky.

Ebola Deeply: With all these challenges, why do you continue to do this work?

Mansaray: I am doing this to fight against Ebola, in order to bring it to an end. Ebola has brought everything in this country to a standstill. Our kids are not going to school. Some of us have lost jobs as a result of this Ebola. So I thought if we continue to sit and leave this fight to the government, we will just go backwards. It is us, the people, who are really truly affected. The government has money and can afford to send their families abroad. That is why we have stood up now to fight Ebola.

Ebola Deeply: How has this work affected you personally?

Mansaray: I lost my colleague to this disease. He got infected in the line of duty and died. And yet I have been doing this for four months now and I will not stop until Ebola ends.

Ebola Deeply: Thank you for taking the time to meet with us. Do you have any messages for those reading?

Mansaray: I want people to cooperate with us we are not doing this work out of happiness. We are doing this because we are concerned. We are doing this because we all have been either infected or affected as a people. This is why we are doing these house-to-house searches, so that we can find all of those that are making it hard for Ebola to leave us once and for all.

So please, if we visit your home, don’t see us as thieves who are visiting you to spy on your possessions in order to come and rob you at night. The government needs to better inform people about what we are doing, so that others stop seeing us as bad people.

Source : Ebola Deeply

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