14 Nov 2014

The man who died alone in the jungle to save others from Ebola

All three of Mohamed Samora’s wives are out there screaming and writhing in the dirt.

Scores of people have come out to watch the moment. The men silent, staring in grief, frustration and plain disbelief.

The women with the three wives, singing songs of grief – and then the moment.

The rustling of the plastic protection suits is the sound cue. The popular contractor’s body stretchered by masked, hooded, gloved and suited Red Cross body-retrievers.

At the sight of the white bag something snaps. Women are collapsing all around me supported by friends and family to their feet . The “National No Touch Rule” has gone out of the window in a wave of raw broken-glass emotion.

Many cannot believe. It is too much. Not Ebola. Not in Yams Farm. Not here.

“He was shot by a witch’s gun – it is not Ebola.”

They shout this with certainty and undoubtedly believe it to be the case. Yams Farm cannot have Ebola – it is the stigma, you see.

But the body-team scoff quietly at this.

They saw Mohamed – the fluid, the blood from his mouth and his ears.

A brief Islamic funeral is permitted. The men pray quietly near the awful, anonymous bag which is everything that a unique person is not.

The Red Cross saw the unmistakable marks of Ebola too, a mile or so distant at New Site above Devil Hole. Abdul Turay’s good friend Fatima Zoker details how she would visit Abdul in recent days: “I said to everyone keep away, you have to keep your distance when the blood starts coming out – it is the most infectious time.” She is not wrong. Though Abdul’s corpse will be an Ebola infection time bomb too for some time.


The team knows it. In the screaming maddening equatorial heat that makes your brain flicker, they suit up for what is to come with meticulous concentration: the buddy-system suit-up to check everyone’s face is totally protected by the masks.

Led by the sprayer they go in and we with them. Abdul is lying in a veranda and they carefully spray their route to him.

First, swabbing, the motorbike team waits back at the vans, ready to transport samples to the lab.

Given Fatima’s testimony and the state of the body, there’s little room for doubt about cause if death it would seem.

There is dignity as they attend their charge. Transfer to the zipped white plastic body-bag takes seconds with minimal fuss and touch.

The five person team are practised, gentle, diligent – and sadly very experienced.

Then comes the really hazardous part back near the vehicle with Abdul’s body safely stowed: de-suiting.

Getting the sequence wrong; forgetting a step in the heat; getting distracted for a moment – all could be lethal.

Chrysalis-like the gloves (several layers), hood, suit and goggles must go into the incineration bag in strict sequence.

The sprayer douses all around the ground on which they stand.


And all around us the methodology not just of infection protection but of its spread.

We learn that the first body in Deep Eye Water had been a community pharmacist working – guess where? Yes – Devil Hole where people have died horribly all this week.

And he treated – guess who? Yes, Mohamed Kamara who died an appalling, public Ebola death for the want of a hospital bed across four terrible days this week.

The pharmacist then fled, knowing he was ill. Knowing why. In doing so he knew he was doing something dangerous.

They found him this morning down in a gully where the last huts of Deep Eye Water meet the jungle.

Lost to Ebola, in a final selfless act, this man had apparently taken himself away to keep his community a little bit safer.

There, he waited for Ebola to take him.

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