Photographer Captures Horrific Scenes On The Ground In Ebola-Ridden Liberia

Eb27John Moore/Getty ImagesEfforts to quarantine areas of Monrovia have turned violent in recent days.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the most severe outbreak of Ebola ever, affecting 3,069 people and killing 1,552, the vast majority of whom are in the small African country of Liberia.

Extreme poverty, poor sanitation, a lack of adequate medical equipment, and a distrustful public have made containing the disease difficult for the Liberian government.

The scene has been made more horrific by Liberia’s decision to create quarantines in some outlying districts of Monrovia, which has incited protests among Liberians. 

Getty photographer John Moore has been in Liberia for the last two weeks, documenting the government’s efforts to stop the spread of the disease.  

The current Ebola outbreak began in Guinea last December. It wasn't detected, however, until March. By that time, it had already spread to Liberia, one of the poorest countries in the world.

By June, Ebola cases were being reported in Monrovia, the country's capital. Doctors Without Borders described the situation as 'totally out of control.' West Point, a township of 75,000 people in Monrovia, has been one of the hardest hit.

The widespread poverty in Liberia has made the spread of the disease far worse. With 84% of Liberians under the poverty line, most live in poor living conditions, lack consistent fresh water, and have poor sanitation. When there's barely enough water to drink, most people don't think about washing their hands.

Source: UNICEF

Liberians' widespread distrust of the government has made containing the spread difficult. Many believe that the Ebola virus is a hoax, made up by the government to hide 'cannibalistic rituals.' Here, a Liberian woman attempts to convince local residents that the epidemic is real.

Source: Reuters

The misinformation going around Liberia is widespread. Some are accusing the government of creating Ebola to raise foreign aid money. Others believe the disease is caused by sorcery and that doctors are killing patients.

Medical teams in protective suits and doctors speaking foreign languages have reinforced Liberians fears.

Many Liberians are convinced that people are dying of other causes. Many of the deceased are not tested before burial or cremation. Here, Liberian Ministry of Health workers unload the bodies of Ebola victims onto a funeral pyre.

Large crowds have driven away burial teams in certain areas of Monrovia, shouting that 'Ebola is a hoax.'

Last week, Moore witnessed a mob of people storm an Ebola isolation ward in West Point. The mob pulled out Ebola patients from the ward, causing many to flee. West Point is a neighbourhood known for its widespread drug use, violence, and crime.

The entire ward was looted, including contaminated mattresses, medical supplies, and clothing. In an interview with National Geographic, Moore reported, 'If they did not have Ebola in the community before, it is fair to say that they do now.'

Public health advocates are trying to change public attitudes by staging street performances for Ebola awareness and prevention events.

UNICEF health workers have been canvassing Liberia to spread information about Ebola prevention. The most important prevention measure they have been emphasising is hand-washing.

In Late July, Liberian president Ellen Sirleaf announced that Liberia would close its borders, establish screening centres, and place the worst-affected areas under quarantine.

People suspected of contracting Ebola are being brought to buildings converted to be Ebola isolation wards. Here, Andrew, 14, is about to be taken to an isolation ward.

Many schools, like this one originally built by USAID, are being converted to Ebola centres. Here, a Liberian man suffering from Ebola has fallen in the ward and was knocked unconscious.

Doctors Without Borders has built a new Ebola treatment center near Monrovia to deal with the crisis. It has 120 beds, but there are plans to expand it to 350 beds. It is the largest such Ebola treatment center in history.

The new Doctors Without Borders center is already overwhelmed, as new patients are brought in everyday.

Doctors say they haven't had access to basic equipment like latex gloves, sanitary smocks, rubber boots, and hand sanitizer, forcing them to treat patients with their bare hands, according to the Wall Street Journal. That is changing as UNICEF and the US government have begun to send shipments of medical supplies.

This is a new U.S. Center for Disease Control laboratory. It is being used to test the flood of patients coming into the Doctors Without Borders center.

The president has also placed restrictions on public gatherings and ordered hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues to play a video on Ebola safety. The owner of this cinema told Moore that few people have attended the cinema since the outbreak began.

The Liberian government recently quarantined two high-density neighborhoods outside Monrovia, including the West Point township, shown here. Schools and markets have been closed and government workers have been placed on leave.

The quarantine has not gone over well in West Point. Clashes have broken out between Liberian soldiers attempting to enforce the quarantine and the township's residents. The clashes started when the government blocked roads to the township with tables, chairs, and barbed wire. The situation got so bad yesterday that soldiers fired live rounds on a crowd throwing stones.

Source: Reuters

Prices for food and water in the township have skyrocketed in response to the quarantine.

Source: CBC News

One of the biggest problems for West Point residents is that they were never warned about the quarantine. Most residents don't have the funds to stock up on food and water ahead of time. In an effort to calm tensions in West Point, the government has begun delivering tons of rice, oil, and other food stuffs to residents.

Source: CBC News

The mass quarantines have been criticised by medical experts who say that the measure is not actually effective at containing the spread of diseases. Dr. Richard Schnabas, the former chief medical officer in Ontario, told CBC the measure is from the 'Middle Ages' and has no place in disease prevention today.

Source: CBC News

Most say its unlikely that Ebola has hit its peak. According to the World Health Organisation, the outbreak could eventually exceed 20,000 cases, more than six times the current known number of cases. Local clinics refused to treat this boy suffering from Ebola because the risk of infection was too great.

The good news is that, according to President Sirleaf, the vast majority of Liberians outside of West Point are listening to the government and have been making what efforts they can to follow Ebola prevention measures. Even so, the country faces an uphill battle.

Liberia isn't the only place photographer John Moore has gotten an inside view of...

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