The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is causing mass panic in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Over 887 people are dead with three new cases reported in Nigeria. People are scared to shake hands or share dinners with others, but a doctor on the front lines in Guinea says that calm is one of the most powerful weapons against Ebola.
“Panic is our worst enemy,” says Dr. Facely Diawara. “Communities need to be informed. And we can talk to them and alleviate fears of not containing the outbreak.”
But the panic is not necessarily due to the disease. The disease broke out in remote villages where people are not open to changes in daily routines. As Breitbart News has previously reported, some villagers believe Ebola is not actually a disease, but rather a curse; thus, they seek the assistance of witch doctors.
Panic has only exacerbated the situation. “We were told that if we don’t leave we would be cut into pieces and our flesh thrown into the water,” said one volunteer who attempted to speak to a village.
“There is a lot of panic in poor and remote communities,” said Theresa Bagrey, Christian Aid senior programme officer for community health and HIV, adding:
They have been confused by mixed messaging and there is a lot of mistrust in the health system, so the communities don’t always believe what the government is telling them. It’s vital, therefore, to speak to communities through their local and faith leaders, and our partners who are already trusted having worked with them on HIV education and livelihoods projects.
Most people catch the disease at funerals. Unlike in America, it is common for people to embrace the dead and wash the bodies of their loved ones without proper medical guidance, even if the loved ones died of a contagious disease.
“The main behavior change needed is at funerals where a lot of cases are contracted,” said Doctors Without Borders coordinator Stephane Doyonne. “That and good protective measures at [hospitals and clinics] are the most important targets.”
The BBC visited a few communities that at first thought the medics were spreading the disease to steal the organs. But some of the leaders finally saw the light and welcomed the medics to find out the truth about Ebola and implement ways to stop the disease.
In Liberia, healthcare workers attend churches to emphasize the importance of clean hands.
But the panic of the people is so severe, the governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea decided to send in troops. In Sierra Leone, the government closed schools and surrounded “isolated communities to implement quarantines.” Only healthcare workers are allowed in and out of the districts. The military reassured the people that convoys will bring in food and medical supplies.
Liberian authorities also quarantined the infected communities. Reuters reports:
In neighboring Liberia, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and ministers held a crisis meeting on Sunday to discuss a series of anti-Ebola measures as police contained infected communities in the northern Lofa county.
Police were setting up checkpoints and roadblocks for key entrance and exit points to those infected communities, which nobody will be allowed to leave. Troops were deploying to badly affected areas to prepare to enforce the measures.
Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown told Reuters the country needs more people and resources. The African Development Bank and World Bank announced they will split $260 million between Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.