Hawa, 19 years old, is from Shegbwema, Sierra Leone. Including Hawa, eight people from her husband’s family became infected with Ebola. Three of them have died. She and her husband’s brother are survivors. At the time of writing, her husband is still being cared for in MSF’s centre.
Her father-in-law was the first in the family to contract Ebola. He was admitted to a local hospital in Shegbwema, where he later died. When she visited him, a blood sample was being taken from him for a lab test and the blood was splashed on her accidentally.
A week later, she started to have fever and headaches. “I was very weak on the first two days. So my sister-in-law brought me to the MSF centre. I can’t remember what exactly happened. I only remember there was a smell of food, but I could not eat. I arrived on Thursday. It wasn’t until Sunday that I realised where I was. I started to think of my daughter and husband. Then two days later my husband was also sick and was sent here.” Luckily their one year old daughter Hellen was not infected.
She says it’s frightening knowing that others in nearby tents have died. “When someone dies at the centre, I feel very afraid, and what I can do is just say a prayer.”
Hawa has stayed at the centre for more than three weeks and can now finally return home healthy.
“Now I am alright, I am strong. There is hope now. I want to see my daughter, I am ready to see my baby. I miss her and I know there is nothing wrong with her. My husband will be at the centre of my mind and my heart. I don’t know how the people from the community will accept me.”
After more than 3 hours drive on a muddy road, Hawa finally arrives at her home village with the MSF health promotion team. Dozens of her family members and neighbours come up to the MSF car to welcome her back, chanting “Hawa! Hawa! Hawa!”. As soon as she gets out of the car, one of them immediately hugs her tight. Then another family member carries her little daughter to her. Having not seen her mother for nearly a month, little Hellen seems a bit hesitant and not sure who the person in front of her is. But as soon as Hawa cradles her in her arms and gives her a kiss, the little girl smiles.