Friday, October 24, 2014

The New Normal 10/13/14

200 miles.
9 hours.
8 temperature checks at Ebola prevention checkpoints.
Many miles of unbelievably bad roads.
Beautiful post rainy season foliage and landscapes.

Finally arrived this evening safely in Koidu where I will be staying the next week with Phebian's family.

After spending just 24 hours here, it is clear that much has changed and yet this is still Sierra Leone. Ordinary people are still finding a way to live their lives even though they are in the middle of this Ebola crisis. Markets are open, farmers are in the fields and the roads are still shared by swarms of motorcycles, cars, transport vans (puda pudas), and large cargo trucks. People are still friendly.

But the lives of ordinary Sierra Leonians have definitely changed. There is a new normal. The only person I hugged or shook hands with is Phebian. Everyone seems to avoid physical contact. There is a nationwide curfew for motorcycles at 7pm and people at 10pm. Only two people are allowed on a motorcycle (as compared to 3-5 previously). All public schools are closed. Public gatherings are generally discouraged although people still allowed to attend churches and mosques. Soccer has been banished at all levels. The price of food has dramatically increased and many more children are going to bed hungry. Hospitals and clinics are not performing any elective surgeries such as hernias. In general people are avoiding the hospitals unless severely sick. And the temperature check points are frequent. One does not want to have a fever under any circumstances right now in this country. Burial of a loved one now needs to wait until the body has been checked and found negative for Ebola.

It is clearly evident that Sierra Leone is taking the crisis seriously. I pray that these measures make a different. The most important factors to controlling this horrible disease is to have the entire population stop touching sick people with Ebola and to stop touching their dead bodies. In addition, there is a desperate need for Ebola treatment centers and for a safe way to provide primary medical care. People are not only dying from Ebola. They are dying of hypertensive strokes and postpartum hemorrhages because they are afraid to go to the clinics, and of diseases like malaria and typhoid because there is no one to help them.

May God bring an end to this crisis.

Thank you for your continued prayers for this trip, Phebian, Pastor Joshua and for the people of West Africa who are suffering so much tonight.


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