I have worked in high-risk environments with some frequency in my career, but instead of a flak jacket and helmet, this time I brought anticontamination suits, including coveralls, masks, goggles, rubber gloves and boot covers, all of which are disposable after a single use in places like Ebola isolation wards. I stocked up on antiseptic gel, wipes and sprays. I also brought rubber boots, which were lent to me by my father-in-law, a retired journalist who is now a fisherman. He said I could keep them.
Here in Liberia, I wash my hands in chlorinated water at the entrance to most buildings, dozens of times a day, whether I have gloves on or not. Because Ebola is not airborne but is rather transmitted through bodily fluids, it’s important not to touch your face after being in contaminated areas. We tend to touch our faces many times per day without realizing it. I’m trying hard to stay safe.
Bonus: Yesterday, NPR interviewed Moore about an incident in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, where protestors attacked a quarantine center and forced its patients to leave the facility. Moore tells NPR that “a fair number of people… believe that the Ebola virus and the epidemic is a hoax, that it’s not real after all, and it’s a way for the Liberian government to bring in foreign money.”
Image: John Moore wears his “personal protective equipment” before joining a Liberian burial team that was removing the body of an Ebola victim from her home, via the Daily Mail. The Mail also has a gallery of Moore’s work. Select to embiggen.
The Liberian journalist Mae Azango has been living in fear since March 8, International Women’s Day, when a newspaper published an article she had written about the negative health implications of female genital cutting, which is practiced among a powerful secret women’s society in many of the country’s rural counties.
Says Azango: The callers warned that “they will grab me and put me in the Sande bush and cut me. And for putting my mouth in this business, I will pay for it.”
But that’s not stopping Azango.
“I won’t back away. Let me tell you that: I won’t back away,” she told us by telephone from Monrovia. “I am not saying I will do it today or tomorrow, but eventually I will do a story on it. Because this thing needs a lot of public awareness.”
Mae Azango, a reporter for the daily FrontPage Africa and New Narratives, a project supporting independent media in Africa, told CPJ she had gone into hiding after receiving several threats for an article she published on Thursday about Liberian tribes practicing female genital mutilation on as many as two out of every three girls in the country. “They left messages and told people to tell me that they will catch me and cut me so that will make me shut up,” Azango said. “I have not been sleeping in my house.”
Wade Williams, the editor of FrontPage Africa, said that several people around town had confronted her over the article, which was widely discussed on radio programs. Williams also said that the newspaper and its personnel were receiving threatening phone calls. “They said that for us putting our mouth into their business, we are to blame for whatever happens to us,” she said.
Azango is a regular contributor to Global Post and won a 2011 grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to cover reproductive health in Liberia.