2014-10-10 16:16:00

WHO in Sierra Leone: Horrendous scenes of suffering among Ebola victims

(Vatican Radio) The World Health Organization, WHO has warned that Ebola is now entrenched in the capital cities of all three worst-affected countries and is accelerating in almost all settings. The three countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have all appealed for more aid to help fight the deadly disease.  

Dr Margaret Harris is a spokesperson for the WHO based in the capital of Sierra Leone.  She told Susy Hodges that they’re seeing an exponential rise in the number of Ebola cases and victims are having to go from hospital to hospital as they are so often turned away because of a lack of facilities.    

Listen to the full interview with Dr Margaret Harris of the WHO:  

Dr Harris agreed that the Ebola virus is “entrenched” and "accelerating" in Sierra Leone where she is based and that they're seeing "an exponential rise in the number of cases.”  She also described how difficult and agonizingly slow it is for people who are suffering from Ebola to find a hospital where they can be admitted for treatment. 

“They go to one hospital, they’re turned away,  they go to the next… they go from hospital to hospital and wait and wait for care.”  She described how she has seen these clearly sick people waiting outside the hospital building or “they are lying on balconies” outside waiting for care.

Dr Harris says it is heart-rending to see such “horrendous suffering,” especially because unlike in other illnesses, health workers cannot follow their instincts to touch and comfort these patients who have contracted Ebola. 

Asked about the fear and stigma surrounding the disease,  Dr Harris said these fears are often leading to Ebola patients being “rejected by their communities,” partly because they fear being placed under a quarantine.  She described a visit she made this week to a village where people suffering from Ebola who had been rejected by the villagers “were lying in a field, some dying.”

She agreed that the epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better but said there are some signs of hope as the international community finally wakes up to the scale of the Ebola crisis. “It’s dark days right now but I do see some light and the light I’m seeing is the turnaround in the international response.”

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