Rev. Abraham Kofa was said to have the Holy Spirit and believed in the Biblical statement that those who trust in the Lord would not come to any harm, and he therefore took chances with the raging Ebola Virus.
“So when a young woman came to his church, sick and vomiting, (clearly displaying symptoms of the Ebola virus), Rev. Kofa believed the power of the Holy Spirit could save her.
“But in trying to save the young woman, Rev. Kofa, 83, fell sick and within a couple of days, he was dead,” New Kru Town Ebola Task Force member, Bobby Jeegbe, told the Daily Observer last Sunday.
“With the body of Rev. Kofa still in the house, another resident, Augustine Taplah, became a victim of the virus and his body was also kept in the same house,” Jeegbe said.
They were kept in the same house simply because the family did not believe that the two men died of Ebola even at the time the virus was raging in late October, Jeegbe said.
“When the Task Force heard the news of Rev. Kofa’s death we proceeded there and informed the family that the body needed to be removed by the Ministry of Health Ebola Task Force.”
Jeegbe said the family was angry, describing community members that revealed Rev. Kofa’s death as evil people telling lies to hurt the family.
“We told the family, including Rev. Kofa’s widow, that they could not bury the body as the family was insisting, but some of them made threatening remarks about us,” Jeegbe recounted.
When the Ministry of Health’s ambulance arrived, the family still insisted that Rev. Kofa did not die of the Ebola virus. The task force requested for police intervention which cooled off tensions and the corpses, including Taplah’s, were removed.
“A few days later, Rev. Kofa’s widow, Elizabeth, (who had earlier resisted the Task Force’s removal of the two bodies) and another child, came down with the disease,” Jeegbe told the Daily Observer.
“Sadly, Elizabeth and the child died due to the delay in going to the nearest Ebola Treatment Unit,” he said.
At a nearby house, Helen Tugbeh, 36, was lying outside sick and vomiting. When the Task Force rushed to her aid, she would not accept that her best chance of survival was to be admitted to the nearest ETU in Island Clinic.
“People in the area said we who are members of the Task Force are evil men and women, looking for people to die,” Jeegbe told the Daily Observer.
It was only when Ms. Tugbeh’s brother (unidentified) came on the scene and intervened that Helen climbed on board the pick-up ambulance.
“Eleven year-old Blessing Marshall, whose mother refused to accept that her daughter had become infected with the disease, managed to run away from us briefly, but was taken to the ETU in Island Clinic,” said Jeegbe said.
Three weeks later, Helen Tugbeh and Blessing Marshall returned home safe and sound and their families are full of praises for the work of the Task Force.
The Task Force is now battling community rejection of the returnees and Jeegbe said something is being done about it.
“We’ve always told the sick that the sooner we get you to the ETU the better your chance of survival as it has turned out in the cases of several survivors,” Jeegbe stated.
Genevieve Shine, 24, was the mother of two, Thomas, 9, and Fatumata Jalloh, 5. Both children died of Ebola. She had come from Gardnersville to care for her mother who died, and as a result got infected.
Ms. Shine was transported to the ELWA Ebola Treatment Unit on September 12 and was discharged on September 28.
“During a visit to her residence in New Kru Town, we saw a smiling woman, despite the loss of her children, thanking the Task Force for saving her life.”
Like Helen Tugbeh, Ms. Shine is pleading for financial capital to sustain herself.
“I’m happy to survive,” she said, but sad that I lost my two children,” she told the Daily Observer. “What I need now is to be able to get a little capital to continue my petty market that I lost due to the sickness.”
Lagoon Task Force chairman, Nelson Sekeh, told the Daily Observer that there are some provisions for Ebola survivors being worked out but he did not give any further details about when financial help would be available to get Ebola survivors back on their feet.
In the end, many people survive Ebola simply because they called for help and were transported to a nearby ETU. But many died because of their refusal to even admit that they were infected, “and they have two chances to survive at an Ebola Treatment Unit, and no chance when they remain at home,” said Jeegbe.
Meanwhile the Daily Observer learned that the 200 strong Task Force operating in twenty-five communities on Bushrod Island recently received remunerations of US$80 each and their second payment is scheduled to be provided through UNDP and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in a couple of weeks.