Africa

What I miss about life before Ebola

People on the front line of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa have been sharing their photos and experiences with the BBC Ebola WhatsApp Information Service.

The virus has had an effect on all ways of life in the worst-hit countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Here's a selection of what people said they missed most about life before Ebola:


Team sports:

"I miss my favourite game - football - and my team," says Sierra Leonean King Med Mans, who sent in a photo of his squad.

Image copyright King Med Mans

A student studying aviation management, he says he will not be able to play football again until the epidemic is over.


School and college:

Schools have been closed during much of the outbreak. With Ebola cases now dropping, they have reopened in Guinea and are due to re-open in Liberia in February and in Sierra Leone in March.

Boarding school pupil Kansu Mansaray wishes Ebola would "vanish from Sierra Leone" as he wants to return to his studies.

"I remember how we used to parade in the morning to school; the group discussions in class; playing football after school; making noise in the dining hall; discussing current affairs at the lecture theatre on Fridays, telling stories at night in the dormitories before we all could retire to sleep."

Morie Karteh in Sierra Leone says teachers are also affected.

"Before Ebola at this hour of the day, I and my fellow teachers should be at our evening lessons but now look what we are doing," he said, WhatsApping a photo of his colleagues playing a board game.

Image copyright Morie Karteh

A university student in Freetown said: "I used to spend eight hours taking lectures at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences and four hours a day studying. Now I burn most of my time on social media."


Piano:

"The most important thing I have missed in this Ebola [outbreak] is my piano lessons/practice," says Mohamed Dainkeh in Sierra Leone.

Image copyright Mohamed Dainkeh

"As there is no schooling I have no access to practice nor a teacher to teach me."


Socialising:

Public gatherings have also been restricted to reduce the spread of Ebola. This has meant the temporary closure of everything from cinemas to sports grounds, leaving many people stuck at home with nothing to do.

"I miss going to the club with my friends on Wednesdays and Saturdays to make new friends and meet with old ones," says Charles Lamin in Makeni in Sierra Leone's Bombali district.

English Premier League football fan Ibrahim Barri agrees and misses meeting up with his friends, pictured below.

Image copyright Ibrahim Barri

"I remember going to our neighbour trying to watch Arsenal vs Manchester United, because I am an Arsenal fan, but the door was closed and they never answered," he says.


Work:

Transport restrictions, school closures, and other preventative measures have led to high levels of unemployment. However some people have found new jobs as health workers, contact tracers or ambulance drivers in the anti-Ebola fight.

Saio Kamara says he used to be self-employed as an electrical contractor in Freetown.

Image copyright Saio Kamara

"But since this outbreak started I have been jobless without no contract. The worst part of it on 2 November one of my family members got infected with the virus so we were in quarantine for 21 days. I thank God we made it."

Fullah in Sierra Leone is also struggling.

Image copyright Fullah

"I work at a car wash. Since we received this virus in Sierra Leone, I have lost most of my customers - together with my friends. We praise God but life is different."


Church:

At a time when many have needed their faith the most, restrictions on public gatherings have meant many churches and mosques closing or discouraging practices that involve bodily contact, for example sharing the peace.

Joseph F Marah says not being able to attend religious celebrations over the festive season affected his family.

"My children had almost forgotten some of my family members that we used to meet with during the festive season. Ebola had put a knife in our traditional practices.

Image copyright Joseph F Marah

"I come from the northern province. We are accustomed to spending new year on top of a big mountain called Warawara - Ebola stopped all that enjoyment."

Pastor Jennis from the city of Kenema, the centre of the outbreak when it first hit Sierra Leone, says his work as a missionary has been affected.

"I had to close my church (with close to 100 members) because of Ebola. Even though the church started two years ago, it was making headway and I am really not happy not doing the work for which I am here." 


Funerals:

Safe burials have been one of the keys to fighting Ebola, but dangerous cultural practices such as the washing of bodies have continued in some areas.

Image copyright UNMEER

"As I grew up, whenever people died I always saw family members, relatives and friends coming around to take good care of the corpse by washing the body, dressing it and praying on it, then asking the closest family member(s) to say a few words for both (the dead and living) and pray to meet in a perfect place (heaven) again, as the last respect and honour," says  Komba Thorlie in Freetown.

"But for now nothing like that happens, which is very painful to us. That led to the rapid spreading of Ebola even, because we found it very difficult to drop our culture though we knew that it's not good for our health and lives. But thank God we've painfully dropped the culture to maintain the law of our government and advice of the medical teams to help end the existence of the invisible enemy Ebola."


Planning for the future:

Yusufu Wormandia in Sierra Leone sent a photo of himself and his daughter, saying his family's travel plans had been put on hold.

Image copyright Wormandia

"My wife won DV [admittance to the US Diversity Visa programme] and we went for the interview at the American Embassy on 26 June 2014. They called us on 28 October 2014 to say that they will not give us the visa.

"At that time all the entire world would not accept people from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. For now we are so sad of that."


Normality:

"Ebola has affected my life tremendously even though not directly, the psychological impact of seeing people abandoning corpses on the street, seeing houses empty as a result of Ebola," says Ibrahim Jalloh from Sierra Leone.

"Also knowing that if you get sick you cannot have proper (or in some instances no) medical attention is overwhelming. This is our reality as every day passes."


These stories and photos were shared by users of our BBC Ebola WhatsApp service. To subscribe, text "join" to +44 7702 348651. For all the latest news and updates on Ebola and to join the conversation, follow BBC Ebola.