The phone rings. There is a dead body in the neighborhood and, as with every death in the city of Monrovia at the moment, Ebola is the suspected cause. The body of an Ebola victim is extremely contagious, so it must be collected, and the home and belongings of the victim disinfected. This task falls to B. Sunday Williams, a Liberian chlorine sprayer, and his colleagues in the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) outreach team in Monrovia.
“When I began this job I had lot of fear in me,” says Williams. “When I heard about Ebola, I was frightened; I was afraid to take a body. But now I’m no longer afraid, I feel protected.”
The outreach team is multi-disciplinary, made up of nurses, health promotion officers, water and sanitation experts, and, of course, chlorine sprayers. They take care of the entire community, both the living and the dead; transporting suspected Ebola cases to the treatment center, disinfecting the homes of Ebola patients, providing information on how those left behind can protect themselves, and safely and respectfully removing the dead.
Williams and the other seven members of the team climb into a four-wheel drive vehicle outside MSF’s Ebola case management center in Monrovia and head for Paynesville. This suburb is on the outskirts of the city, towards the airport, and has been hit hard by Ebola in recent months. A small crowd—half curious, half agitated—waits for the team at the gate of a house. The team members are used to the attention.
“Sometimes when we go outside, people are afraid of us, but we tell them they shouldn’t be,” says Williams. “I don’t touch anybody; I do everything to protect myself. When I’m wearing the personal protective equipment, I feel comfortable, protected.”
After talking to the family, Williams and the others put on their protective gear. The crowd continues to look on. Even inside his yellow suit, Williams is easy to distinguish because of the blue bottle filled with chlorine solution he wears on his back. (read more)