By Jacob Sax Conteh :
Dulles, Virginia: This bustling international airport which serves the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area that covers Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia is busting to the seams with a sea of people travelling for the holidays. A group of Nigerians and Senegalese stop by at the Starbucks coffee shop to buy coffee and donuts before taking the escalator to the departure lounge upstairs. A Sierra Leonean man who works at the airport passes by, shaking his head in disappointment.
“A year ago this airport was full of our people going home, but now nobody is going home.”
As hundred of aid workers and volunteers from around the world descend on Sierra Leone to help with the Ebola crisis, most of us here in the Diaspora, from Sydney, London, New York, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Toronto, and elsewhere are staying here for Christmas. For a person like me who is an educator, a religious leader and a writer, I could have flown home to Sierra Leone and spend the next three weeks in villages to help sensitize my people about Ebola and write stories about the devastation the malady is causing to be published in the international media and raise further awareness, but I am too scared to go home.
Some of the nurses and doctors here in the Diaspora could have spent this holiday season to go home and work side by side with other health workers already in the country, but they too are too scared to go home. They cite the fact that numerous health workers including 11 prominent doctors have already died of Ebola and they do not want to be victims. So everyone of us is staying in our cozy homes for Christmas.
Thankfully, there are Sierra Leoneans with international passports and connections that are still there in Sierra Leone in frontlines of Ebola. All the 11 doctors that died of the disease could have easily left and taken their practice to another part of the world. Today, Dr. Salliu Turay, former Sierra Leone Ambassador to the Russian Federation, and a prominent doctor who had a private practice in Germany for years and could have easily flown back to Germany is stuck in Makeni, taking care of Ebola patients. Another doctor, Dr. Alusine Dawo, a surgeon who worked for years in Mauritania and is still highly needed in that country is in Freetown risking his life to help save our people. There are scores of other Sierra Leonean doctors and nurses who are still serving our people and my praise go out to these selfless professionals.
To be fair, any one of us who goes home from the Diaspora this time around may face a tremendous hardship when they return. For instance, here in the United States, people who go to Sierra Leone are mandated to self quarantine for 21 days after they return. Many employers may not want to allow someone returning from Sierra Leone to go back to their jobs for fear of infection as the American public is paranoid about Ebola.
For now, since we cannot go home, we will continue to send funds to help with the Ebola relief. We will continue to solicit help for our nation and pray that this malady will pass away. For Christmas, many of us will spend it at home since it is very cold outside. Maybe a year from now, we can all go back home and celebrate Christmas with our families and friends. That is my prayer.