“Knowing he is out there is a constant concern for me and my family” - the Wymondham College student whose father works in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

Anthony Animba in Sierra Leone

Anthony Animba in Sierra Leone - Credit: Archant

The Ebola epidemic caught the world's attention in 2014, but for one Wymondham College student, the news was more personal. ALEX ANIMBA writes about having a father working in one of the worst-hit countries.

Most of you will have heard about the Ebola epidemic which is running rampant in various countries in Africa.

And many people believe that it is not having a direct effect on people in Norfolk. Correction - most tend to forget about the ex-pats, civil workers and volunteers who work and live over in countries which are being hit hard such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea,

In the nearly 40 years since Sierra Leone gained its political independence, it has suffered from political instability, economic stagnation, and social upheaval.

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During this time, Sierra Leone has been ruled by eight different governments, only two of which were democratically elected. Faced with huge social and economic problems and no resources to deal with the problems, this is when the US and Britain stepped in. Thousands of people from the West work there, putting their lives at risk just to put dinner on the table.

Where's this going? Well, my dad, Anthony Animba, works in Sierra Leone as an IT manager and he has worked there now for nearly four years.

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Knowing he is out there is a constant concern for me and my family. Thankfully, no-one on his camp has contracted the illness yet as the workers have their temperature taken six times a day. But that doesn't go to say that he is completely safe.

I carried out an interview over Skype asking him a few questions about what it's like out there.

Speaking over Skype to him is a somewhat common affair as he is out there on my birthdays, Father's Day and for this year during Christmas; we will have to have the laptop at the ready while we are opening our presents on the big day.

Question and answer between Alex Animba and her dad, Anthony Animba

How has Ebola directly affected the country?

As I work for the mining industry I have seen several effects. Many of the workers have handed in their resignation as they feel it is not worth it being out there. Now these people have gone and found jobs elsewhere and this has obviously had an effect on the economic sector.

Due to this, companies have gone and are going bankrupt. Another thing I have noticed is that local businesses are dying off as people are scared of going to busy social destinations where there will be large crowds of people such as market places.

In addition, traditions are beginning to change as people in the past at churches shook hands, the Holy Communion system has changed and a crucial funeral method has been forced to adapt as before they used to touch the dead bodies as a sign of respect.

Because the governments in the past have been unfaithful to their people, locals are refusing to listen to the government and think that they are lying to them when they tell them not to touch the bodies and interact with others.

How has it changed getting home with regards of customs and checks?

Believe it or not, there is a lot more waiting around at the airport now - I know it's hard to believe. Most people if not everyone have to now fill out an immigration form to indicate where in the world you have been. Also there are constant checks - I had to once have my temperature taken.

What is the atmosphere now like with British workers and locals?

The camp has now completely removed all of the locals. They have to come to work by boat because before they lived on camp. There is definitely a divide though. Much more than there has ever been before. I sympathise for the locals as there is much talk about whether they should be working for the company at all. However the locals are a crucial part of the business as they work in the mines.

A number of nationals have lost their jobs (local people) because of the problems caused by Ebola. To add schools and businesses have had to close because they are not getting enough money to function. Civilians have now reverted to looting local businesses and shops and on the camp two armed guards have been placed outside my dad's office because his office is sort of the headquarters where there are all of the servers and monitors. The guards are armed with large guns.

Have you got family living in unusual or trouble spots around the world with an interesting story to tell? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk.

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