Ebola Outbreak Feeds on Fear, Anger, Rumors

As the number of new infections and deaths rise in the Ebola outbreak, fear and suspicion is rising, too, making it more difficult for health care workers to get the sick into hospitals, even as increasingly angry crowds are calling for more government action.

The growing chaos caused by this current Ebola outbreak, which is already the worst on record with more than 1,300 infected and 700 dead in three countries in West Africa, was witnessed by ABC News in Clara Town, a low income community in the Bushrod Island area of Monrovia.

On UN Drive, a car with police in riot gear slowly crossed the Gabriel Tucker bridge to go onto Bushrod Island.

Some minutes later, those officers were standing on a median looking at a group of mostly young men holding homemade signs that read, “Govt please come to our aid in Clara Town”

The men explained that community members had called the Health Ministry to come pick up the body of a man who had been dead in his home since Thursday. Late Friday or early Saturday, a woman had died in the same neighborhood, and she was also still in her home. Both were suspected Ebola deaths, and the protesters were saying that the government should remove them.

A man in the crowd said that since they called the government on Thursday, workers had come to examine the scene, but they had not returned. He said that if the government did not respond to the request of community members to remove the bodies, there would be serious consequences.

“From Monday, the entire Clara Town will be right here. No car will go into town, trust us,” he said.

UN Drive is a hub of activity, and it is the main road that leads from many different parts of Bushrod Island into central Monrovia.

Fred D. Weah, a young man who seemed to be a leader of the group, led chants about the youth of Clara Town protecting their neighborhood and not being afraid of the police. The protesters chanted about not wanting any brutality, but said they would return it if it was inflicted upon them.

PHOTO: A young man holds a sign at a protest about the delayed removal of a suspected Ebola victim who had died in Clara Town, Liberia, on Thursday. On Saturday morning, community members learned that the dead mans neighbor had also died.

Carielle Doe/ABC News
PHOTO: A young man holds a sign at a protest about the delayed removal of a suspected Ebola victim who had died in Clara Town, Liberia, on Thursday. On Saturday morning, community members learned that the dead man’s neighbor had also died.

As the chants got louder and the group got bigger, the riot police crossed the street and asked the protesters to move back from the road and onto the sidewalk. Some of them yelled at the police, but the people moved back onto the sidewalk.

A protester said that he and the others were standing on the road because Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had driven that way and they wanted to draw attention to what was happening in Clara Town.

When they heard that an ambulance had arrived in Clara Town, the group moved down UN Drive and turned onto a dirt road. The women in the Clara Town market looked on as protesters and journalists walked down the road towards the neighborhood where the two people had died.

Dozens of people stood on both sides of an ambulance, watching as two health care workers put on protective suits.

They painstakingly checked and rechecked their suits and their disinfecting equipment, and they left the group, spraying the dirt as they walked the narrow path between houses. They passed a small concrete house with a yellow wooden window, and stopped to recheck their gear at a forest green home on the left. A young man said that those were the homes of the dead.

The health care workers joined three men waiting outside of the house and as the men stood back, the workers knocked on the red metal door. Someone opened the door and the workers spoke to the person.

After some time, the people in the house closed the door and the workers turned away.

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Dan Mullin is an active writer and editor for the Pluto Daily who covered the 2014 Ebola Outbreak. Mullin attended the Wake Forest School of Medicine before leaving to pursue his lifelong science goal of allowing humans to live forever via a computer/brain transfer.