Occasionally everyone stops what they are doing; the doctors, nurses, and cleaners. Everyone. All attention is directed to the decontamination exit from high risk zone. A patient is being discharged. Like a celebrity the survivor is surrounded by an excitable crowd of whooping and clapping. The beaming faces of the crowd reflected in the broad smile and shining eyes of the survivor. It is an intensely emotional moment, though often bittersweet.
Ebola is such a contagious and deadly disease. This is the worst outbreak ever, both in terms of numbers affected and geographic region. It is the first time Ebola has appeared in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, so there's a lot of misunderstanding, which breeds fear, and it's that fear that presents the biggest challenge.
Despite the work of both government and Médecins Sans Frontières, there is still an atmosphere of anxiety surrounding the crisis. Lahai says that patients admitted to the hospital for other conditions have been escaping because they are afraid and don't feel protected: every day someone dies from Ebola and they think that they are at risk of dying if they continue to stay at the hospital.
I cannot imagine being in labour and forced to trek miles and miles in the hope to deliver in safe conditions. One woman I met Kula, delivered her baby on the side of the road in the dark with the threat of snakes and other dangerous animals to contend with. She had walked miles from her village to the one where we met to hire a canoe. She didn't make it as far as the village before she gave birth and her baby only made it as far as the water's edge when it passed away as she waited for two hours for a canoe to take her and her newborn baby to the clinic. Kula's story shocked Kate and I to the core. We were overwhelmed with grief for her.