No Contact: Life Inside the Outbreak
Editor’s note: These stories were gathered from writings submitted to CNN and interviews conducted with people on the ground in West Africa. They have been edited for clarity.
Burying the bodies
Daniel James, Red Cross Society volunteer
Kailahun, Sierra Leone
The first body we had to bury was at a village called Gbanyawalu. When the corpse was turned over on his back for swabbing, it took in a breath — like somebody who has suffered from suffocation and was gasping for air. We nearly ran out. Even the World Health Organization worker was not expecting such a reaction from a corpse that was there three days before our arrival.
On July 10, I was called into the office of Constant Kargbo, under-secretary general of Disease Management Programmes and Operations for Sierra Leone’s Red Cross Society. He said to me: “My man, I want to send you to Kailahun for dead body management. Will you go?” I took about five minutes to think on it.
I joined the Red Cross when I was a child to work for humanity and to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable. I said, “I am from Kailahun. I must go to save my people.”
When I reached Kailahun, it was like a war-torn country. My family was not happy; they were all scared and worrying. They called asking me to go back. My sister shed tears over the phone, but I reassured her.
On average, we bury six bodies a day. The hardest part of the job is to take blood samples from the corpses.