The hysteria surrounding the Ebola outbreak flared up just as fast as the topic would eventually disappear from the media. With only a few exceptions, the news focused mainly on the international relief effort. All too often, clichés of the “dark continent” were revived.
What wasn’t told was the story of those, that were most affected by the virus: Liberians who fought for their own people. In fall 2014, I travelled to Liberia together with journalist Laura Salm-Reifferscheidt. We wanted to get an insight into the outbreak and see how Liberians themselves were dealing with Ebola.
We encountered a country in a state of emergency; its people under constant threat of death nobody could escape. Ebola, the invisible enemy, that randomly struck, demanded impossible choices: should you be courageous or rather hide? Ebola killed indiscriminately and turned the innocent into guilty.
“Let’s not fool ourselves. As in any major crisis around the world, the people who act and respond to those crises are first and foremost local people,” Joanne Liu, President of Doctors Without Borders, reminded us.
International relief organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps provided invaluable support by building Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs). They trained staff and set up an infrastructure. But in the end, it were the Liberians themselves, who confronted the Ebola virus. They tried to understand how it spread and changed their behavior accordingly. It was this change in behavior that eventually stopped the further spread of the virus.
We chose an inside perspective, because Ebola is a “social” virus. It infects those, who look after their loved ones; it infects doctors and nurses and those who bury the dead in traditional ways. We therefore dedicate this film to the victims, the survivors and those who fought at the front lines in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
is a Berlin-based documentary ilmmaker who gained his BSc in Biology from University College London. He has produced and directed ilms for networks worldwide. Carl Gierstorfer‘s work has received numerous awards, among them a Silver Dolphin in Cannes. His latest documentary THE BLOODY TRUTH – tracing the origin of HIV – was broadcasted 2014 by ARTE and was shown in 25 countries.
His writings have been published in publications such as Nature, the Economist and The Sunday Times.
Follow Carl on Twitter: @carlgierstorfer