Audio postcard: Addressing Ebola myths by interviewing a survivor

Jefferson Massah interview
Jefferson Massah, right, interviews Ebola survivor Fredrick Momo in Totota, Liberia.

In Liberia, misconceptions abound surrounding Ebola, as strange cloaked and masked healthcare workers invade communities. Many Liberians are afraid to visit health centres, even when they are sick, believing they will be “sprayed” with unknown chemicals and left to die.

In Bong County, Liberia, Jefferson Massah has been interviewing community leaders and international agencies for updates on what is being done to help the community deal with the Ebola virus. His show, Ebola Situation Report, is part of a local taskforce that share the latest information on infections, visitors to the health centres and new construction on health facilities.

For one show, Jefferson interviewed an Ebola survivor. This gave him a chance to dispel some of the myths surrounding the disease. Fredrick Momo explained that health centres are a great place to get treatment, and that any “spray” is simply to remove germs from patients so they do not infect each other or health workers. Listen to part of Jefferson’s interview (the interview has been condensed from what originally aired on Radio Gbarnga).

Jefferson: “A local drug peddler commonly known as Black Bag Doctor in Totota, Salala District, has survived Ebola after he came down with the virus. Fredrick Momo contracted the virus while providing home medication for a woman who later died from the virus. During a visit in Totota over the weekend, I met Fredrick Momo at his residence after being discharged from the JFK Ebola Treatment Centre and declared cured. He now tells his story.”

Fredrick: “When I was threatened from Ebola I was taken to JFK for treatment. When I got there . . . . When you have been positive, all of Bong County said don’t go because when you go they are going to spray you and you are going to die. So when I was sick I suffered a lot of people telling me ‘Don’t go, don’t go.’ But I said ‘Not go? How? I am not going to get well.’ They said, when the car pulled up, ‘Are you willing to go?’ I said ‘Yes! I am willing to go!’ I got in the car and went to JFK. As soon as I went, they started my treatment, right away. They treated me, they feed us three times a day in the hospital. There, no problem, when you get there. But if you are going, don’t take or carry anything. Don’t think about clothes, don’t think about trousers, don’t think about food. As you get there, they take good care of you. You eat three times a day. They get you clothing. They give you a bathing suit. They give you a towel. Everything that you think of, that a man needs, they give to you.”

. . .

Jefferson: “So what message do you have for those who still believe that Ebola is a man-made thing, or maybe people want to make money. . . . So that is why people are talking about Ebola. You come from there, so what can you tell people?”

Fredrick: “The only thing I have to tell people is: let everybody forget about saying that, or that or that. Ebola is real. Wonder how anybody — Liberians — if you are caught sick, if anything come on you, my advice to you today, Tuesday, if you can’t find a way, travel anyway to the centre and let them know you are sick so that they can come to your aid. But when you go there, then you have nothing. When you go they spray you up. Nothing. [inaudible]

They spray your hand, your feet so that you can’t get the germs. They [germs] can be on you continually and maybe you might touch something and someone else go touch it. So whatever happens, I don’t want you to say ‘Oh I don’t want to go there because people are going to die.’ They [critics] are supposed to convince me not to go to the centre, but my experience is to go when I am sick. If I see them [doctors], I am going to make it. So I said, ‘No, I’ve got to go.’ My fever was high. So if you feel your fever high, you go. Nothing will happen to you. They will take good care of you. Anything you can think of, they will do it for you.”

The Ebola Situation Report airs on Radio Gbarnga in Bong County, central Liberia. Farm Radio International has reached out to Jefferson to support his team in setting up “beep-to-vote” technology. “Beep-to-vote” will allow Radio Gbarnga to hear their listeners’ attitudes on, opinions of and experiences with Ebola.

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