12 Nov 2014

Ebola: mum, dad, uncles, aunts, they really are gone forever

They still look stunned, disbelieving that this living nightmare can have taken over. Do they wake each day and for half a second believe it isn’t so? Only for the stomach-thumping realisation, with the rising sun, that mum and dad and the uncles and the aunts and the neighbours – they really are gone forever.

Like unaccompanied minors – not in an airport but in life – they stand there as the Unicef Jeep rolls into the village, silently holding out their nameplates:

Mohamed Kamara 15
Alimamy 12
Abass 7
Alhaji 3

Well, soon perhaps at least Alhaji will be too young to remember. Perhaps.

To remember the sudden grasping fever that took their mum Kadiari down, two months ago.

To remember their father Rai suffering and succumbing shortly afterwards.

To remember the long 21 days of quarantine – imprisonment of sorts – and how the neighbours refused to bring them food, fearful and ignorant of infection in equal measure.

All four brothers now stay with a family friend good enough to face down the ignorance and the fear and take the boys in.

“But what I really need,” begins Mohamed in almost a whisper, “is a bicycle.”

“Yes,” I replied, “of course – for getting to the shops or work, right?”

“No, no,” he said, ” for my grandmother. She lives several miles from this village and perhaps with a bicycle I could visit?”

There it is, the gnawing need to see the one who somehow made it from an Ebola-doomed family: the grandmother who still lives, who still connects to that gone world. The family that was, before the stealth of the virus took it all away, forever.

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