Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

Would you kindly bear with me a little while I have a good old moan, please? I'm feeling rather wretched. No, not because I've finally kicked a lingering lurgy that turned out to be bronchitis and stole my voice. But because one of the reasons I blame for the illness is back: the Harmattan.

"Ebola — you have to do more," roars the barrel-bellied cleric El Hadj Mamadou Saliou Camara, with his white beard and mustache, in a snow-white boubou, the traditional flowing gown of West Africa.

That's the message he delivered over the weekend to hundreds of his fellow clerics, who gathered in Kindia, the third largest city in Guinea and a major crossroads. Many of the residents still blame Westerners for bringing the virus to their country.

Red, gold and green – Guinea's national colors — filled the streets of the capital, Conakry, early this morning. Guineans of all ages proudly wore the colors on their T-shirts, headbands, dresses and shorts. Children, with their cheeks and foreheads painted, ran around the street cheering, blowing whistles and waving their nation's flags.

But by 3 p.m. the streets were dead.

At the crack of dawn, the Sow family — parents and four children, two girls and two boys — are up at their home in Conakry, Guinea's capital.

Sitting on a wooden stool, Aissatou Sow bends over to light a gas stove on the floor and heat up a breakfast of fried fish, vegetables and french fries, plus hot milk and fruit.

El Hadj Alhassane is 11; his sister Hadja is 6. They're off to school after being out of class for six months.

Big bro helps little sis zip up her backpack, and they head out the door into their dad's car.

Hundreds of spectators and government officials watched as music and fanfare filled the People's Palace in Conakry, Guinea. Cheerleaders danced vigorously, waving pompoms and twirling on stage. The festive event on Saturday kicked off the government's newest campaign: zero Ebola cases in 60 days.

"Guineans talk too much. People resist even the idea that Ebola exists," said the prime minister, Mohamed Said Fofana, when he took the stage. "Why do we refuse to accept what others have accepted? We really must get a grip on the situation."

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Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

She is one of the African health workers who caught Ebola and died. Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh was the head of First Consultants Medical Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. In July, Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer flew sick to the city from Monrovia, ended up at her clinic and turned out to have Ebola. He wanted to leave. Dr. Adadevoh and her team refused to let him go — if she had, he could have triggered a wide-scale epidemic in Lagos, a city of 20 million people.

Dr. Ada Igonoh says her faith and ORS (oral rehydration salts) helped her pull through after she tested positive for Ebola. The 28-year-old Nigerian doctor was on the medical team that cared for the country's first Ebola patient, Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American who flew into Lagos sick and died at the clinic where she worked. Nigeria was hailed for halting what many feared could have been a catastrophic outbreak. Dr. Igonoh shares her story of fear, faith and recovery.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Florence Allen Jones used to teach in Washington, D.C., before coming back home to Liberia.

Now she's part of the education ministry's teaching-by-radio team. Working with UNICEF and another nonprofit, Talking Drum, in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, the government aims to provide lessons to children across the country, hit by the Ebola outbreak. Most schools closed this past summer and will likely remain closed for months.

Ebola has cast a shadow over Liberia, but it can't stop Christmas.

Despite the trauma of the past year, Liberians are trying to have a happy holiday season. Carols are playing on the radio and there's lots of decorating — and painting — going on.

"At a certain time of the year we want our homes to look good," says journalist Siatta Scott Johnson. "It's like a competition in Liberia when it comes to the festive season."

Ganta is the Liberian city that never sleeps. That's what local businessman Prince Haward says of the town of 40,000, one of the country's largest cities and a crossroads for travelers in the southeastern region: "Ganta is a nonsleeping city ... a business-oriented city."

Just off Tubman Boulevard — Monrovia's busy main thoroughfare — stands a plywood hut with a large blackboard at the front, in three panels. On them — written in clear, bold white chalk lettering — is a form of newsreel: mini-articles and editorials, as well as graphics and illustrations. The creator of Daily Talk — this Liberian journal with a difference — is Alfred Sirleaf. He's 41 and has been "writing" the news since 2000, three years before the civil war ended.

For months, Liberia was the country worst-hit by the Ebola outbreak. But the wards in Liberia's Ebola treatment units now stand virtually empty. The number of newly reported cases fell from almost 300 cases a week in mid-September to fewer than 100 by mid-October.

But that doesn't mean it's time to take it easy. In fact, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has just announced a new campaign, Ebola Must Go, which focuses on the role of the community.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Liberians have been gripped by crisis after crisis. A long and brutal civil war shattered the West African country and now Ebola. But NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been looking into another far lighter side of life in that country - fashion.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf hopes to ring in the holidays with an ambitious goal: no new cases of Ebola in her country by Dec. 25.

"We believe we had to set a target that gave our people hope, a target that would make them more committed to taking all the precautionary measures," she says. "Yes, it's called ambitious, but sometimes you have to take a risk in being ambitious."

As Nigeria's military continues to battle Boko Haram fighters for control of towns and territory in the turbulent northeast, fearful residents are leaving — or being driven out of town. More than 200 schoolgirls, abducted by the Islamist extremists in April, are still missing.

Hoisting the black flag of al-Qaida, the insurgents have imposed strict Islamic law in areas under their control, vowing to establish a caliphate.

Hopes were raised when the Nigerian military announced a cease-fire last month with the militants of Boko Haram, who have been fighting for years to impose Islamic law on Nigeria.

But the Islamist extremists denied there was a truce and have intensified deadly attacks and kidnappings in recent weeks, seizing territory said to be the size of Maryland and declaring a caliphate in the zone under their control.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The African Union has given the new military authorities in Burkina Faso two weeks to hand power back to civilians, or face sanctions.

This follows the abrupt resignation of the president last week, after days of street protests opposed to him trying to prolong his 27-year rule.

Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida, from the elite presidential guard, is the new interim military leader after a brief power struggle within the army.

Have you ever swallowed unflavored rehydration solution, or ORS? That's what they call the mixture of salt, sugar and water given to Ebola patients.

I've taken more than a mouthful, and urgh! It tastes dreadful.

But doctors who were among Nigeria's Ebola survivors all agree that they may not have recovered from the virus without having forced down the foul-tasting, but apparently life-saving fluid.

Gallons of it.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As U.S. troops begin arriving in Liberia to help contain the regional spread of Ebola, a physician in the capital is grappling with the virus upfront.

Dr. Martha Zarway's life turned upside down when one of her clinic staff members — a friend — died on Sept. 2 amid rumors that the cause of death was Ebola.

Harrison Sakilla, a 39-year-old former teacher, can't stop smiling.

"I have to smile," he says. "I'm the first survivor for the case management center here from Ebola."

Former patients like Sakilla, who've recovered from the virus, lift the collective spirit at at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola center in Liberia's northern town of Foya. He was admitted to the high-risk isolation unit, which is part of a cluster of large tents that make up the bulk of the center.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Postwar Liberia had struggled back onto its feet in the past decade, after the civil war, and was just catching its collective breath when Ebola landed. One of the lasting effects of Ebola on the country is likely to be its impact on the economy.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has hurt Liberia more than any other country. And within Liberia, no town has been hit harder than the primarily Muslim farming town of Barkedu, in Lofa County in the far north. Despite a population of just 8,000, the small, dusty town accounts for a large percentage of the country's more than 1,000 Ebola deaths to date. The virus has swept away entire families — children, women and men.

Lush and green, Lofa was once the breadbasket of Liberia. But farming has slowed in the northern county. The reason is Ebola.

The virus reportedly first landed in Liberia when an infected person crossed the border into Lofa County from neighboring Guinea in March.

Doctors Without Borders is there to care for the sick.

Sixteen-year-old Shacki Kamara was an accidental victim of Ebola. He didn't die of the virus, but if the virus hadn't struck Liberia, he might still be alive.

Kamara lived in West Point, a shantytown on a peninsula jutting out from the capital city of Monrovia. An Ebola holding center there was attacked on Aug. 16 and patients fled; on Aug. 20, the government imposed a lockdown.

For more than an hour, the Liberian government official took questions from NPR. Despite the tense times in his Ebola-stricken country, Lewis Brown, minister of information, cultural affairs and tourism, was welcoming and animated. His mood was upbeat, although not overly optimistic. He spoke with NPR's team in his office, furnished with black patent leather sofas. He was late for his next meeting because of the long interview but graciously dismissed any concerns we expressed about running late.

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