Nurses treating Ebola shunned by family, evicted from their homes

The women’s staff room at Hastings Ebola Treatment Center in Western Rural Area, Sierra Leone, is cramped, stuffy and hot from the sunlight flooding through the window.

Nurses in blue scrubs squeeze onto the rickety beds and try to sleep during their break in the Green Zone.

Later, they will go to the Yellow Zone, pull on their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and go back to the wards – the Red Zone.

For many of these health workers, the hospital is the only place where they are not shunned by the community or their families. And for most, it is passion and not money that drives them on.
‘We rent houses and when [the landlords] know we’re working here, they give us notice,’ says nurse Joya Koroma, 32.

‘When we go to our families, they drive us out of their houses. Even our relatives are afraid of us. We are doing it because we are trained to. We have to serve humanity.’

Ms Koroma and the rest of the staff haven’t been paid in two weeks. The clinic, which has 100 beds, and is treating patients – including several children – ill with Ebola, is 100 per cent government funded, with no aid agency money or funds.

As a result, Ms Koroma and her colleagues are eating far less than they need and are almost always exhausted but have nowhere safe to sleep.

Others like male nurse Alieu Kamara, 19, sleep overnight in the men’s staff room – just steps away from the patients they treat.

‘My family kicked me out, so this is why I stay here,’ says Mr Kamara. ‘This is where I can sleep. Most of us here, our families have abandoned us because of the good work we are doing.

‘We are here to push the virus out of the country, you understand?’

Despite the intensifying crisis, health workers in Sierra Leone, one of the countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic, have been hamstrung by a lack of resources and scant equipment – including protective clothing.

Unsurprisingly, badly needed doctors and nurses make up a significant proportion of fatalities, with an estimated 57 per cent of medics working with Ebola patients eventually succumbing to the disease, according to the World Health Organisation.

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