In the early morning mist of Refugee Town, a small village in Unification Town/Smell-No-Taste, Ma Musu, an expressive teenage girl, couldn’t help crying when this paper spoke with her during U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama’s recent visit.
The teen obviously had a personal concern. She fidgeted with her fingernails that were completely bitten off. She kept her head down and spoke in a low tone, the kind of tone you’d use when you are telling a secret. When we pulled Ma Musu aside for some information, she could not control the tears that rolled down her cheeks like a waterfall.
“Sometimes when I go to school, I get a lot of my answers wrong because I have no time to study. Once, my teacher said I should give him something to correct the red or he would fail me. I’ve failed plenty in school,” she said.
When asked if she ever had to exchange sex for grades, she looked at her hands that had several cuts and infected cuticles, and started to cry.
She nodded her head in the affirmative.
“It’s not fine,” she added.
It took a relatively long time, close to an hour, to calm her down. She was distraught and looked embarrassed that she had finally released some emotional stress.
Meanwhile, I spotted Tina, who was sent back to Liberia two and a half years ago and found herself stranded along the highway. This column did a story on her in the hopes of finding a family that would take her in.
Now 22 years old and more hip to the lifestyle of living in Liberia, Tina looked drained, worn out, as if she is stranded on a desert island and in desperate need of water.
“I’m here. I found a little spot where I have a mud house, but I am always here,” she said.
When asked if she is employed, in school or commuting to Monrovia once in a while, she looked at our reporter as if in a daze and said, “No.”
“I’m just here oh; trying to adjust for real,” she added.
In the meantime, Refugee Town is believed to have had the most Ebola orphans at one point in time. It is estimated that there are now 100 Ebola orphans living in the town, and almost half of them are not in school.
During U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to Unification Town, the Ebola orphans lined up along the road screaming at her passing convoy.
“Please help the Ebola orphans go to school,” they pleaded through written banners and their voices.
Unfortunately, as small and loud as their appeal, their voices were shut out by the dozens of vehicles that made up Madam Obama’s convoy that passed along the dusty road taking the American First Lady back to the airport.
One woman, Ma Bendu, an Ebola survivor, lost her husband and claimed some of her sister’s children are still at an orphanage in Disco Hill. She has hopes of getting them out of there one day, but not now because “there is not even enough money to look after my family.”
“I couldn’t keep them when she and her husband passed because I was infected along with my family. I lost two of my children and husband. As I speak, I can’t even work or sell because I am so sickly.”
Refugee Town is enveloped in darkness. There is no power in the town. Community members have to walk about a mile to get to the nearest dry goods stalls and provision shops. The town is lonely, no sidewalks or football field to indicate that children live there. Everyone seemed sullen and distant from one another.
Also, Ebola ravished the community and took over 85 people with its passing rage. Left in the town now are children, and more than 60% of them are not in school. They looked rough and worn out, haggard and without proper nutrition.
Meanwhile, a teacher working at one of the government schools in the town said that the community needs fast outreach. Now that elections are underway, some of those who intend to represent Refugee Town are being called on by its community to reach out and help.
“Sister, that is the problem we faced with here – all these orphans and no one is putting them in school. No one is looking after them when there is no food to eat, and every time a child is dying in this town. We need the government to help us, really,” stated Mr. Samuel, a teacher working at one of the government schools.