DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — “Are you going to die?” my 8-year-old daughter asked me the other day. “They said on the radio that adults are getting sick and dying.”
“Maybe you should stay inside.”
Instantly I was flooded with the anguish so many parents around the world are carrying right now because we cannot protect our children from these grown-up fears.
My daughter already knows parents can die in epidemics. Her biological father was one of them.
We don’t talk much about her early life in Sierra Leone, when 3,956 people died during the Ebola epidemic from 2014 to 2016. Then, as now with the coronavirus, there was no vaccine and no cure.
And yet nearly two years after her adoption, Ebola still falls into our conversations when we least expect it. Once it was a toddler we befriended at the pool who happened to share the same name as her uncle. He’d died of Ebola, too.
I’ve tried so hard to make her to feel safe in Senegal alongside her sisters, now 6 and 4, whom I’ve also adopted. Only now we have one of those all-too-familiar hand-washing stations right inside our gate.Maybe I anticipated my oldest daughter’s fear amid COVID-19 because the scent of diluted bleach sometimes makes my own stomach turn. I covered the Ebola epidemic as a journalist for The Associated Press, first in Liberia and then in Sierra Leone.I remember the sick being pushed in wheelbarrows down the street, the children so traumatized after their families died that they were unable to speak. Relatives kept vigil outside treatment centers, sometimes notified of a death only after cremation.Ebola changed the course […]