BEIRUT

Middle East

In Liberia village, Ebola victims left to die

A health worker assists a colleague with his protective gear, as they collect the body of a man suspected to have died from the ebola virus, in Monrovia, Liberia, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

BALLAJAH, Liberia: The only sounds in the abandoned Liberian village were the cries of a little girl, shut up with her mother’s body inside the family home, starving and thirsty as she waited for death.

Eventually even the girl – 12-year-old Fatu Sherrif – fell silent as she too succumbed to the deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging her country and other parts of West Africa.

When AFP visited Fatu’s village of Ballajah Sunday, she had been locked away with her mother’s body for a week after most residents fled to the forest to escape the virus.

Belongings lay abandoned around the village, the doors of some homes left open by those rushing to leave.

A few villagers remained, including Momoh Wile, a septuagenarian local chief, who told AFP Fatu’s harrowing story.

Ballajah, some 150 kilometers from the Liberian capital Monrovia, is at the heart of one of the quarantine zones established in the country in a desperate bid to try to contain the spread of the disease.

Ebola was first detected in Fatu’s family July 20 when her father Abdulah fell sick, Wile told AFP.

The diagnosis sparked panic among the 500 or so people who lived in the village. They called health authorities but by the time a team finally arrived, Abdulah, 51, had been dead for five days.

His wife, Seidia Passawee Sherrif, 43, and Fatu were already sick.

The health workers took Abdulah’s body, and, according to Wile, told the villagers “not to go near the lady and her daughter.”

“They were crying all day and all night, begging their neighbors to give them food but everyone was afraid.”

Fatu’s mother eventually died Aug. 10 but the girl’s cries could still be heard around the otherwise abandoned village.

The doors and windows to the house were sealed shut and there was no way to see inside.

Reached by AFP Tuesday, Wile said Fatu had died overnight, still alone, and still without water or food.

The only surviving member of the family, Fatu’s 15-year-old brother Barnie, tested negative for the virus but was still shunned by his fellow villagers.

AFP found Barnie Sunday taking refuge in one of the abandoned houses, alone and scrounging for food.

Looking tired and haggard, in a dirty T-shirt and worn sandals, Barnie sobbed as he told his story.

“It is here that I sleep; it is here that I stay the whole day. Nobody wants to come near me and they know – people told them that I don’t have Ebola,” he said.

“When I am hungry, I go in the bush to look for greens,” he said. “That’s what God says so I accept.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 14, 2014, on page 11.

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Summary

The only sounds in the abandoned Liberian village were the cries of a little girl, shut up with her mother's body inside the family home, starving and thirsty as she waited for death.

When AFP visited Fatu's village of Ballajah Sunday, she had been locked away with her mother's body for a week after most residents fled to the forest to escape the virus.

Belongings lay abandoned around the village, the doors of some homes left open by those rushing to leave.

Ebola was first detected in Fatu's family July 20 when her father Abdulah fell sick, Wile told AFP.

The only surviving member of the family, Fatu's 15-year-old brother Barnie, tested negative for the virus but was still shunned by his fellow villagers.


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