My Visit ToLeobengi: The Land Where Over 1,500 Ebola Victims Were Buried
Sometimes it becomes very difficult for a man to shed tears when someone dies because of the bravery and the responsibility one has to comfort others especially the women and children who are usually the most weepers than the men in such a situation.
This tradition of man remaining brave in bitter situations was definitely broken by me few days ago when I entered the beautiful city of Foya last week Thursday. As we all are aware Foya is where the Ebola outbreak started at the FoyaBarma Hospital on March 19, 2014. I was compelled to weep because of what I saw; the number of our citizens who succumbed to the vicious pestilence and the devastation caused by the virus to the entire country, damaging every fabric of the society including the educational sector, agriculture, the nation’s economy and other major sectors of the country.
My trip to Lofa County began last Wednesday and was mostly concentrated on assessing the health situation in that part of the country considering the fact that Lofa County, especially Foya is the epicenter of the deadly Ebola epidemic. So as instructed by my boss, Mr. Philip N. Wesseh and the editorial department, I was told to tour Lofa County especially Foya where the virus began. I visited border points, health facilities as well as the Ebola Treatment Center in Foya now referred to as Community Case Center (CCC).
As expected all of the instructions from my boss were followed as I visited all health facilities, talked to health workers, administrators, OICs, entered the largest ETU, among others and other major areas of concern in that county. Let me make it clear that when I entered the old ETU, no patient was there so, please don’t feel that I have Ebola and run away from me. An interesting aspect of my visit was basically the news I heard that the people of Lofa themselves are serving as their own security; they are vigilant, manning the various entry points at the borders and are also following all the preventive health measures in all towns and villages.
Health authorities in the county confirmed that for the past three months, there has been no recorded new case. What wonderful news to hear! This is truly worth emulating. This success story can be attributed to the resilience and vigilance of the people of Lofa whose only focus is to completely kick out Ebola from their county.
Having visited all the major places, I took a break at an entertainment center where I met a motorbike rider who I asked for an interview which he accepted. During the interaction with him, he talked about the burial site of about 1,500 Ebola victims and as inquisitive I was, I asked him to take me to the spot to see for myself. Generously he accepted after negotiating a pecuniary compensation.
Upon arrival at the site, I could not bear what was before me, the number of graves that were lined up in front of me, the graves of people who had their own plans for the New Year; it was unbearable to see the graves of so many people lying in a deserted land, some without proper burial or graves, to see so many people leaving behind their children, fathers, mothers! I broke down in tears, tears of sorrow, because of the level of denial and complacency that still exists back in Monrovia by some of our friends who have not seen what has happened in this country. That was what brought tears and sorrow to me.
Leobengi, the gravesite of the over one thousand Ebola victims is a strip of land lying about three kilometers north of Foya City, Lofa County. This place is now the eternal home of over 1,500 of our citizens, who lost their precious lives to the deadly Ebola virus when Ebola hard-hit Lofa County between the months of July to October, 2014.
The people who had earlier planned their lives for 2015 are no more, as they now lie in their various graves far away from the city because of the strength of the vicious and uncompromising Ebola virus.
As I write this article, I’m still grieving from what I saw in Foya last week, the number of lives Ebola claimed in this country. Even those who were cremated (burnt) are uncountable. Ebola has devastated us creating hatred,fear of your own family, death without burial, running away from your own sick child, mother, father. This is something I will never forget; the effect of Ebola has left serious scars on our country.
This brings me to the conclusion that indeed Ebola is real; it can wipe away entire family, community, town, village, city and even the entire country if the proper mechanisms are not put into place to contain the virus. It enters like a thief and leaves surreptitiously, leaving children without mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. What a disease!
Let us now stand united and together fight this deadly epidemic. We can do this by avoiding complacency; remain vigilant and adhere to the various health measures. Remember that Ebola is real and is still lingering in Liberia!