Tafala* is sitting outside the ‘high-risk area’ of the Ebola Treatment Unit in Kenema, Eastern region, a hotspot in Sierra Leone. Greeting visitors with a big smile, she slowly start explaining.
“I have lost my parents, all my family died because of Ebola. Only the children survived so far. Two of my brothers recovered and were discharged, their blood tests came negative. They’re staying with our auntie, waiting for us: two others boys (6 and 2), Awa* (one year) and I are still under treatment but we are feeling much better now and we’ll be soon out of here.
“My father was the first to fall sick. A week later, my mother and more people fell ill, then my brothers and sister, then myself. We travelled from our village to Kenema. They kept repeating the word ‘Ebola’. I thought, what is this Ebola? I thought we simply had malaria. We didn’t know what it was. My head hurt and my heart was beating fast. Sometimes I thought I was dreaming a very bad dream. I just thought I had to do everything for my brothers and sister. What have we done to be sick? We are just children.
“I wish to go back to our village now. I feel very strong and I miss my home. It’s harsh. No family members are allowed inside the treatment centre, we cannot talk to our elder sister. She lives in Kenema and I hope that she will take care of us. I know that it will be very difficult for her to pay our school fees as our father used to do. I love mathematics, physics and sciences… I did hope to be a doctor but I know that it will be difficult. When I will be back home, I think I will wash clothes to get money. You see, my life will never be the same.
“But I know that I will get married, my fiancé loves me so much! He is a student, he is strong and helps me a lot. We call each other, we talk, we laugh a lot. He will support me, I will cook for him and we will have a good life.”
*not her real name