What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

In Sierra Leone village, Ebola aid appears ‘too little, too late’

Read the Full Transcript

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now to the Ebola crisis, which has claimed more than 5,000 lives out of 13,000 reported cases.

    While the panic fades in the U.S., many communities in West Africa, which has borne the brunt of the epidemic, are still completely overwhelmed.

    Alex Thomson of Independent Television News filed this report from Sierra Leone.

  • A warning:

    Some of the images may be disturbing to viewers.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    Freetown, the capital itself, 1.6 million people now in the grip of Ebola. They reported 111 new cases nationwide. We're heading out from Freetown toward Kwama, where contacts have said four people died. Before we can even get there, we have to stop at Devil Hole.

    So, we have got one — one person is dead there.

  • MAN:

    Yes, two people dead here.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    One person dead, several apparently dying. You dial 117 for emergency services here, and they're supposed to come for the sick and the dead. It's after 11:00. They have been calling 117 since 7:00.

  • PASTOR ALBERT, Sierra Leone:

    So, I called 117 this morning at least to tell them what happened. They responded to my conversation, but he told me that they would be here very soon.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    So they wait with no protective equipment here, angry, frustrated, frightened.

    The house you're seeing 50 meters away is, the villagers tell me, the house where this man lived. Now, that's not where his body is. His body has been moved some, I don't know, 80, 100 meters down to the other side of the road here. He's lying under that tree right now. The problem is, how did he get there? The villagers say that he was moved there. That happened with at least two or three people without any adequate protection at all.

    That's a near certain way of catching and therefore spreading Ebola. Worse, the villagers tell us the men who carried Osman Gobondo to his last resting place have fled into the jungle. Not far off, we're taken to see where Aminati Gobondo, one of the man's three wives, lies desperately ill with Ebola.

    People here don't understand why nobody has come to help. A policemen arrives very close and without protection, but what can he do? When you're in Devil Hole, the international aid limit for Sierra Leone looks to be too little and too late.

  • MAN:

    This is the contract tracer. They are the guys who can, like, follow the history of people who have contacted the disease. Once somebody (INAUDIBLE) who they might have come into contact with, just so that they can follow the trail of the virus.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    Sure. So, what's your name?

  • MAN:

    Vincent Trojas.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    Vincent, who are we going to see? Who is here?

  • MAN:

    You're going to see two of the patients here that have been infected with the virus.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    OK.

    And Vincent introduces us to two more sufferers. This is Vincent Gorma.

  • MAN:

    He has been vomiting blood.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    Right.

  • MAN:

    Eyes are red. He's feeling weak.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    His wife sits at some distance, and we can do little more than phone the Red Cross again and offer them water.

    A mile up the road at checkpoint Yuton (ph), they take your temperature and attempt to stop the spread. But in this isolation tent sit four more suspected victims, 16 more in the village nearby. Clinics in the region turned them away. "We are full," they said.

    We finally make it to Kwama, a ghost village, self-imposed 21-day quarantine after four people died.

    ALPHONSUS KANGBO, Headmaster of Local School: In case there is anyone died, no one should wash the body, no one should touch the body unless the burial team — so, for now, to prevent further cases, what we are planning to do is to quarantine the whole village.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    An aid team gets to work to cordon off the area.

    FATHER FRANCIS PATRICKSON, Society of Missionaries for Africa: Now, Sometimes, I use my own car to pick up. And of course I don't touch them. And I use my gloves a helmet always in the car. I put — I allow them to get into the car. I take them to the holding tent.

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    Are you concerned for your own safety?

  • FATHER FRANCIS PATRICKSON:

    Yes. I mean, I don't touch them. When the people speak about my own safety, I used to tell them that I have my prayer and my prayer. I'm a Catholic priest.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • ALEX THOMSON:

    Yes. OK. Well, good luck with that, Father. Good luck with that.

    Aminati still lay in Devil Hole, her breathing now rapid and shallow. The body of her husband, Osman, is in the white Red Cross vehicle next to her. But they only do body collection. They say it will get worse before it gets better here. The first part of that is certainly true.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    A sad postscript: The woman just featured Alex Thomson's story, Aminata, died a few hours after he filed the report.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest