Today, Salee Manga has time to relax with her companions. The Community Care Centre (CCC) in Foredugu has not received a new case for two days. This is very good news, because a few weeks ago the triage was full of people, and there were 39 patients with suspected Ebola in the CCC.
It is a special day, Salee and colleagues are receiving guests from Plan offices abroad. It is uncommon to meet people who are just here to see how things are getting on. It is so good to talk to outsiders and have recognition.
Salee is 24 years old and a student nurse. Schools and universities are closed because of Ebola. To keep herself busy, Salee decided to get involved and help defeat the disease in Sierra Leone.
Salee has not been home since she decided to volunteer at the Foredugu CCC in Port Loco. Her family said to her, when she committed herself to fight Ebola and expose herself to the disease by working in the CCC, that they would not allow her to come back home until the end of the outbreak.
Her only contact with the external world is her mobile phone and the internet. The CCC is connected to internet thanks to Plan’s partnership with Net Hope.
Salee eats and sleeps at the CCC. At night, after a long and stressful day, she sleeps in a tent a few metres away from suspected Ebola patients. She is not the only one. Most of the nurses and cleaners can’t go home because of the fear and stigma they inspire amongst their own families. A moving solidarity has grown among them and in the middle of all this suffering they are strong enough to laugh together, appreciate a beautiful song and dance.
Plan has set up water and sanitation facilities and functioning water supplies for the CCC; contracted caterers to provide food for the patients and staff and put in place a system to ensure the payment of the health workers in the units.
Today, gathered for a group photo with the guests, the caregivers repeat endlessly, ‘don’t touch, don’t touch’. They keep on washing their hands endlessly even when they look relaxed. Ebola is more real here than ever and though the CCC has not received any cases for two days, the danger is ever present and care workers remain focused
When the crisis finally ends, Salee wants to continue her studies and qualify as a nurse to continue helping people. She knows that schools are likely to reopen in February. It is with a mixture of hope and fear that she says: “We need to ensure the schools will be safe and secure. One case is enough to bring us back to the worse situation of all.”