Ebola outbreak – interview with Hawaedison Amara, 56, mother of safe and dignified burial team member, Kemoh Amara, Kailahun district, Sierra Leone
Two years following the declaration of an Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, communities and governments in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are moving into the recovery phase, determined to make their countries stronger before Ebola decimated families, economies and health care systems.
Through its five pillared response, the IFRC, in support of the three affected National Societies, played a key role in helping to bring the outbreak to an end. Thousands of volunteers were involved in contact tracing, case management, beneficiary communications and social mobilization, psychosocial support, and safe and dignified burials (SDB).
Teams were stigmatized and discriminated against, and were often on the receiving end of verbal and physical violence by communities, scared and unsure of what was happening.
Hawaedison Amara, 56, is the mother of Red Cross SDB member Kemoh Amara. When her son joined the burial team, Hawaedison asked her son to leave the house. Below, she explains why.
HAWAEDISON AMARA, 56, MOTHER OF KEMOH AMARA, 29, SAFE AND DIGNIFIED BURIAL TEAM MEMBER, KAILAHUN DISTRICT, SIERRA LEONE
How did you react when your son came home for the first time and said he was going to join the Safe and Dignified Burial (SDB) team?
00:00 – 00:39 When Ebola started, it was really too hurtsome??? I didn’t want my son to join the burial team because there was one man, a dispenser, who was giving treatment to those who were affected. Seven of these people died during the process, so I was very much scared that my son would join this kind of exercise. That was the reason why I didn’t want him to join at all.
Why did you tell your son not to return home?
00:39 – 1:03 The reason why I said he should not come back home, when he started doing burials with the Red Cross, I said ‘well go’ because at that time, he was lying in the house, his whole body had a fever, and his father said, ‘Look at Kemoh lying there. Nobody should touch him because he must be suspected of having Ebola.’ But he’s working at a place where the burial team is doing the burials, so I will not want anybody to touch him, and that was the reason why I said he should not come back home.
As a mother, how difficult was it to tell your son not to come back home?
01:03 – 01:15 It was very difficult to ask my son to go out from the home. But he was touching dead bodies, and you can never tell if he was the dangerous one. Maybe he had contracted it and if he comes back home, maybe he will contaminate the rest of the family.
If Ebola returns, and your son wants to be part of the burial team again, would you again ask him to leave the home?
01:15 – 01:41 If Ebola ever comes back and my son wants to take part in the burial activities again, I think I will have no stopping him. I would just say go ahead because he has been trained on how to put on the protective equipment, and he knows how to handle someone with Ebola. So, I will actually tell him not to go. I would support him because he knows how to go about it.
Would you allow him to still stay in the family home if there was another outbreak?
01:41 – 01:56 At first, I did not want my son to be at home because it’s a dangerous epidemic and I don’t want him to get infected and come back home and stay with the family. But I would allow him to stay next time because he has a lot of experience.
The Red Cross came to your home and taught you and your family how to protect yourselves from Ebola. Did this help change your mind about asking your son to move out?
01:56 – 02:08 Yes, because of the teachings by the Red Cross on how to stay safe from Ebola, I thought it was okay for my son to return home, so I called him and said, please come back home and let us all stay together. If you happen to get Ebola, okay, it is God’s will, but I actually called him to come back home and stay with us, and he did. He came back.