I sat with more than 200 Liberians as they processed lessons from Ebola—lessons the west has still not learnedby Katherina Thomas / June 8, 2020 / Leave a comment
The Ebola cemetery is one of the quietest places in Liberia. It is known as Disco Hill. That may sound like some sort of cruel joke, but it was named long before, for the gunfire battles that took place there during the Liberian civil war, in which two rebel factions stormed back and forth as if they were dancing.
Disco Hill is silent today. Since the end of the 2013-16 West Africa Ebola outbreak, even the birdsong there has seemed oddly subdued. Occasionally a ringtone or a radio cuts through the quiet, only to be hushed by the wind. Walk among the orange mounds with their thin wooden crosses, rubber trees arching their backs up over the hill, and you’re met with a scattering of flowers—the expression of both love and loss.
And, although more than 3,000 of Liberia’s Ebola dead are buried here, grief is far from the only lingering emotion. Four years after the end of the outbreak, anger still burns. Ebola is spread through fluids, and so the bodies are still sealed in the sterile shrouds in which they had to be wrapped before they could be embraced by the ground. A memorial hut holds 16 oil drums, each one packed with ashes and bone. In West Africa, a decent death demands soil, but the drums hold the remains of souls who died unidentified, their final resting place not earth but tin. In the heat of the outbreak, data was lost on how many unidentified cremations took place, but the ash weighs a total of about 7,000lb. It bears heavy upon the land—like the weight of an elephant, or two London taxicabs.
“Ebola has gone from my body but it is still in me,” a Liberian Ebola survivor, 35-year old Finda Fallah, told me, two years after the end of the outbreak. She lost her seven-year-old son to Ebola, and his remains were among those that went unburied. Without a monument to her loss, she feels it more acutely, she said. “I know it will stay there long life,” she added, “because my heart got spoiled.”