I was watching the news last night and there was a story of a slum in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia that has been quarantined to help contain the Ebola outbreak. Read it if you dare, but it is haunting and unsettling, and it cost me hours of sleep and frightful thoughts. Ebola in itself is a horrific terror that has come to West Africa, but to cut off an entire community of approximately 70,000 people who have no way to provide for their families sufficiently on the best of days, is an unimaginable violation of their human rights. A nurse speaks of the "clinic" she works in being dismantled, of what little it had to treat patients, and patients having disappeared, back into the very crowded conditions of the slum that they live in. The images of the poor and desperate who are now unable to go to work outside of the quarantine area, the lack of food and proper sanitation that was already a health risk now becoming a death sentence...I'm thankful I can turn off the imagery but unfortunately, I can't make it stop for them.
And then my thoughts turn to a community, a shantytown of similar haphazard accommodations and overcrowded, under serviced conditions and my thoughts turn instantly to fears. Though not close to where these outbreaks are occurring, there are always things to fear in regards to what faces our children and families in our communities. I think of children in communities I've walked in who are so afraid of strangers and outsiders that they cry and hide wherever they can to avoid looking at our foreign faces. Imagine the fear of a sick child seeing someone in a hazmat suit coming towards them with gloved hands and hidden compassion. These are the lucky ones who have access to medical attention. Not as lucky as those who have home countries who will transport them away from the situation, to sterile and safe environments with nutrition and medications optimal for healing from the ravages of fever and pain and death. I'm struck by the incredible contrasts of it all as the nurse they interview shows the empty "clinic" - bare cement walls, glassless windows and an iron gate that were supposed to be a safe shelter for those who were exposed to the virus. There was little comfort in these walls to begin with but I guess that the luxury of a space to come and feel "attended to" was more than some could allow to go on. It's unspeakable.
I watch the interviewer speak to a woman in the West Point slum, who works as a hairdresser outside of her community. She now faces the loss of income and the loss of her ability to care for her own family and her extended family because of the quarantine. I recognize the resignation on her face as she explains that she must go and check on her mother, who has sent word that she is out of rice, her staple food, and has no money to purchase more, even if it were available.
There is something in this woman's stature that reminds me of so many I have met and walked with, that speaks of the exhaustion of poverty. It is a weight that these have carried for far too long, with so many extra obstacles added on daily, hourly...it's a wonder she can stand up at all.
Here are the facts of the Ebola outbreak, a series of videos that One.org has put together to help pass along accurate information about the virus. While it's important that we educate ourselves, let's remember it's not enough to know...we must speak out against myths and misperceptions and most of all, we must act against the human rights violations such as what is taking place in the West Point slum in Monrovia. Support Amnesty International as it speaks against these government actions that cost lives. Give to Doctors without Borders who are on the front lines of the fight against Ebola. Be active. Speak up. We can turn off the news but we can't make a difference without being responsible for what we've seen and heard.
This is rambling and disjointed and the result of being again, overwhelmed by the things that continue to make our world an incredible example of the injustices of privilege and poverty. I'm going to just put it out there. Be grateful today for what you're dealing with. And do something to ease the pain of what others are dealing with. I think that's the only way forward.