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As of this week, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is known to have infected more than 5,700 people and taken more than 2,700 lives. Yet those figures could be dwarfed in the coming months if the virus is left unchecked. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the total number of infections could reach 1.4 million in Liberia and Sierra Leone by January 2015. Though cases have been reported in five countries, nowhere has been harder hit than Liberia, where more than half of the Ebola-related deaths have occurred.
More MoJo coverage of the Ebola crisis.
The outbreak has crippled Liberia’s economy. Its neighbors have sealed their borders and shipping has all but ceased, causing food and gas prices to skyrocket. Schools and businesses have closed down, and the country’s already meager health care system has been taxed to the breaking point. Meanwhile, as panic grips the country, crime has risen steadily and some reports suggest that Liberia’s security forces are among the perpetrators. To get a picture of how dire the situation is on the ground, we got in touch with Abel Welwean, a journalist and researcher who lives outside of Monrovia. He conducted a handful of interviews with Liberians in his neighborhood in the second week of September and also provided his own harrowing story of what life is like in the country.
The outbreak has forced many Liberians to stay indoors and avoid interacting with other people. Since the virus can be caught merely by touching the sweat of an infected person, once-common forms of physical contact, like handshakes, have become rarer.
Frances (a university student): Football has been suspended in our country. We are sitting at home just doing nothing—all in the name of protecting ourselves. It is hurting us, but we have to play the safe rules, because we value our own lives.
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