Over time in Port Loko, I got to know some of the team working at DERC (District Ebola Response Center) that was located near the ETC (Ebola Treatment Center); DERC fell under NERC (http://www.nerc.sl/). DERC coordinated all responses to and surveillance of possible Ebola cases in the Port Loko district. I was offered the possibility of joining a surveillance team on a day off and I was joined by JS and KL, together with Alex, Adam, Francis and John (DERC, GOAL, CDC). We had a long, bumpy drive ahead of us, excellently driven by Charlie from the the Sierra Leone Armed Forces (SLAF), mainly on a pot-holed dirt road to our eventual target on the island of Sanda Magbolontor.
The road to Sanda Magbolom, a bumpy three-hour drive (picture on right courtesy of JS)
The road to Mbanta, passing through several villages. Top center: A Konto tree, a familiar site along the route. Bottom center: One of the many mosques we saw on our trip.
River crossing: Mabanta, Mabole river, with an army checkpoint and Ebola screening station. The Captain in charge gave us an overview of the checkpoint and area under his platoon’s control (panoramic courtesy of JS)
Once over the river, we headed to Sendugu, the main village in the Sanda Magbolontor chiefdom, where we visited a Community Health Post (CHP), which covers 38 villages. The “waiting room” was full and we returned later, once most of the patients had been seen by the nursing staff. No doctor and minimal facilities with 3 beds and a couch. I found this visit quite difficult and it took me a while to calm down emotionally. My patience for #FirstWorldProblems once I returned to base camp and eventually the UK has been low!
The Community Health Post (CHP) at Sendugu, Sanda Magbolontor, with the Senior Nurse wearing the surgical mask.
The Maternal Child Health Post (MCHP) at Bgogbodo, Sana Magbolontor. The mothers were wearing their finest dresses and the (single) Nurse dispensed vaccines and high energy food supplements. The babies looked healthy, for the most part, a credit to the nurse in charge (such a lovely smile and attitude). It felt that every mother wanted a photo with their baby!
And finally, on the way back to the ferry and Port Loko, I met this motorcyclist: he was crossing the river in a dugout canoe and recognized me from delivering samples to the Port Loko laboratory. I did not see him again, but other delivery drivers kept me updated on his well-being.