Kitsilano resident Anne Catherine Bajard figured the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus would be under control when she arrived June 1, in LIberia to start her job as country director for IBIS, a Denmark-based international development agency.
She was wrong.
“We thought it was controlled,” Bajard told the Vancouver Sun, explaining that the current outbreak had escalated fairly quickly from rural to urban. “What we didn’t know was that this was hitting major centres with large quantities of people. In a city you can’t control it.”
Bajard’s role in Liberia includes managing a team of seven expatriates and 50 local workers aiming to help rebuild the education system and the capacities of civil society following the civil wars.
Nearly two months after her arrival on July 29, Bajard called a crisis alert for her office, fearing she and her team could not get medical help if they needed it because of the high risk of contracting the virus at or near hospitals.
Their concerns were heightened by Bajard’s fears that she and her co-workers might not be able to get a flight out because airlines were avoiding Liberia and refusing to take passengers with a temperature.
“I realized at this point I cannot get the expats out if they get sick,” Bajard said in a Skype interview with The Vancouver Sun from Ghana. “That was the biggest fear, being stuck there and any health problems we had putting us at risk of Ebola.”
Bajard lobbied the United Nations in hopes of getting clinic access but there was no room available for members of non-governmental organizations. In the meantime, the team bought advance airline tickets to Ghana as part of an escape plan that was mobilized on Wednesday night, after rising concerns that the Ebola threat was increasing.
Bajard (who manages four offices in Monrovia, Zwedru, Fishtown and Greenville) and her team of seven expatriate NGO workers from different countries, has since set up a remote office in Ghana, where they are managing the 50 local workers remotely using Skype.
Bajard told the Sun that she has no intention of returning home and abandoning the people of Liberia. The focus of her group has now shifted from education to “social mobilization,” which involves sending out local teams to educate the public on who to contact if they get the Ebola symptoms, which are similar to the flu with headaches, muscle pain, vomiting and diarrhea. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Those infected are at risk of dying within 21 days.
“It hit my heart too much and I need to continue,” Bajard said. “I don’t want to put myself in danger … but if I manage from a distance I can still make a difference.”
Read the full story here.
Last modified: September 2, 2014