Africa's Ebola crisis too close to home for Sarah

Sarah King, of Lismore, thinking about how her family and friends are affected by the Ebola virus, back in her hometown of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Sarah King, of Lismore, thinking about how her family and friends are affected by the Ebola virus, back in her hometown of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

EVERY time the phone rings, Sarah King's heart sinks.

Sometimes she is reluctant to answer, fearing the worst.

In her home country, Sierra Leone, where most of her family and friends live, Ebola has claimed more than 1130 lives with the number of recorded cases falling just short of 5000.

"It is terrifying, even if I'm not related to anyone, to hear that people walking down the street just fall down and die oozing blood. It can affect anyone," she said.

"There was a time when I would go on Facebook every hour, if not more often, to see what the updates were.

"People are still dying and it's close to home, it's close to my family. You'll hear about someone dying just around the corner or just down the road."

Sarah King, of Lismore.
Sarah King, of Lismore. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Ms King's family, including her mother, sister, nieces and nephews, live in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown, one of the Ebola "hotspots" identified by medical aid organisation MSF.

Since 2008, Ms King has called Lismore home. It's something she would desperately like to be able to offer her family.

"If I was able to get my family out I would," she said. "You're here and not able to bring them over to get them to a safe place. Every time the phone rings my heart sinks because you think, what are they going to say?"

Ms King said she would like to thank the Australian government for its help, but appealed for more support, particularly for more train-ed and experienced medical staff in Ebola-affected areas.

She said she would also like to see the government consider offering temporary visas for family members to take them out of infected areas until the situation gets better.

Ms King said she was establishing a charity that would send food supplies and mon-ey to families and orphanages in Sierra Leone.

MSF says every district in Sierra Leone is now affected by the epidemic.

It said the government's response had been hampered by a lack of resources and co-ordination.

Topics:  ebola editors picks lismore

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