In the Ebola treatment centre, everything is washed with chlorine

Maija Tammi
Maija Tammi
Maija Tammi

A group of four men in protective suits meet the ambulance full of patients, arriving to the Red Cross Ebola treatement centre in Kenema from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. The journey takes several hours and many of the patients are in bad condition by the time they arrive.

One of the men meeting the ambulance is Abubakar Moijueh, 27, nicknamed Apachie. He’s a “sprayer” whose task is to clean the ambulance inside out with a handheld chlorine sprayer.

– It might just be the hardest job I know. The second hardest being moving the bodies, especially when there are many of them, Apachie says.

Apachie was trained in using personal protective equipment (PPE) – putting them on and particularly taking them off correctly – by Doctors without Borders, who were first to found Ebola clinics in Sierra Leone when the epidemic started last spring. In addition to the white overalls, the equipment includes rubber boots, a hood, safety goggles and a face mask, an apron, and three safety gloves worn on top of each other.

– The goggles are the most difficult. They fog easily and the work turns into fumbling around, Apachie says.

Neighbours don’t want to meet

Apachie is a class teacher, but the schools are closed because of Ebola. Apachie misses the Ahmadiyya primary school – his workplace in Kenema – and his fifth- and sixth-year pupils.

– I fear Ebola, but it’s my responsibility to support my family.

Apachie’s father died when Apachie was 11. In addition to his mother, there are six siblings in his family.

– Some neighbours have forbidden me to come close to them because they know I work in an Ebola hospital. There’s nothing you can do about it.

As a little boy, Apachie was a Boy Scout in Freetown and a Red Cross volunteer. When the epidemic started, it felt natural to apply for a job in the new treatment centre.

– One day, I want to go to university to study environmental protection. No species are identical. I want to know wild animals better, he states.

Text: Jari Lindholm