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Wednesday 22 January 2020

'There is palpable fear now' - Irish aid worker in virus zone

Alistair Short (back left) is head of Operations for Concern in Liberia.
Alistair Short (back left) is head of Operations for Concern in Liberia.

IRISHMAN Alistair Short is working in Liberia, where he says people were initially very relaxed about the dangers of Ebola.

He has been working with Concern in the region for three years, developing programmes that benefit primary school education, agriculture and community health.

Speaking to the Irish Independent from the county's capital of Monrovia, Alistair, pictured, said that when reports of the Ebola outbreak first started to appear, people were too laid back about the situation - although over the past few days he has seen that change.

"I think something dramatic happened in Liberia about 10 days ago. The numbers are not looking good at the moment - more cases and more deaths - and I think suddenly people got shocked and got a bit of a wake-up call," he said.

Mr Short said that people in the region were getting on with their lives, even with the shadow of the virus hanging over them.

"Daily life for most people is pretty much as normal, people have to exist, they have to live, really that was the case even during the war years," he said.

"There is much more palpable fear and concern over recent weeks but, to a degree, that is a good thing, because it will hopefully keep people much more alert and more aware. They had been far too slack in the past."

Mr Short said that no other Ebola outbreak had ever had as many victims or as many cases before. "It is serious because this is the first time that it has happened in an urban setting.

"It is here in Monrovia, where people live cheek-by-jowl in close contact with one another so the fear is that it will spread," he said. "Last week was the worst week in terms of the increase in the number of cases and the number of deaths, so absolutely it has potential to go exponential - and it also has the potential to cross borders."

Irish Independent

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