My name is Aaron B. Jibba and before the Ebola, I was here in Kailahun. When the camp was established in Kailahun, I had no job and people were dying. I applied for a job at the camp and was employed as a hygienist. When my elder brother whose house I was staying at heard about this, he drove me out of the house saying that he has his children and wife there and did not want me to bring the virus home and end up infecting and killing them.
I was so discouraged that I wanted to quit the job but I decided to continue with the belief that if God said I would die there, then so be it, and if he said I would make it through, then I would thank him after all. I continued, in part because I knew I was doing something to help my country to get rid of the virus. At that time, it was not so much about money. We did not even know what they were going to be paying us. Whenever we asked how much they intended to pay us, they would tell us to forget about money for now, and that whatever amount they gave us, even if it were a hundred million it would not measure up with the worth of our own lives and those of our people. Therefore, we were told that we should first of all try to concentrate on the job. We went right to work, and I saw and experienced a lot of very emotional events.
After a while, I was selected along with others to go and train people who were to be employed as hygienists at the Magburuka treatment center. The expatriates told us that if they tried to go alone, the people out there would be scared to come on board. But, if we went with them, we would be a motivating factor particularly if we told them that we were the ones that worked at the Kailahun camp and drove the virus out of our own district. Thus, we went and carried out the training for two months. When the Magburuka team was finally selected and got used to the work, we were brought back here to continue our work.
As for the community people, they were our biggest challenge. They discriminated against us so much that it took a lot of courage on our part to continue. For instance, many of us got driven out of the houses where we lived. Sometimes we would go to buy food and other stuff and people would not sell to us as they did not even want to touch the money that we carried. They believed that everything we touched could be a carrier of the virus. One example, was at the coffee shop “Ataya Base,” where I usually spent time before the outbreak and the people there were aware that I was working at the center. At first, whenever I went there, they would not drive me away but as soon as I got up from the seat, they would immediately spray there with chlorine. I decided to stop going there as I myself did want to be having contact with people because I knew I was better protected than those who were not engaged in any form of Ebola related work.
The most powerful memory of the Ebola outbreak is about one pregnant woman who was brought to the center. Her pregnancy was seven months along. Before getting infected with Ebola, she had previously gotten another illness that required surgery. During her surgery, I was invited to the facility to be spraying the doctors with chlorine as they carried out the operation. Unfortunately, she lost her life and that of the baby in the process. It was not just the fact that she lost her life that was so heart breaking, it was the way she struggled as she was dying. After that operation, I was really down-spirited for the rest of that week.
By and large, we received some training in stress management and I attended some self-care sessions that helped us to cope with the stresses. Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) brought psychiatrists and therapists who took us through sessions. It was really timely and useful as at that time we were having frequent nightmares about the things we saw in the field.
Finally, I thank God and feel very proud to have been part of this life-saving work that has made me a national hero.