Matt Hongoltz-Hetling | FP | Yahoo News | December 8, 2015
KONO DISTRICT, Sierra Leone — Thud. Almost every night, the tailor’s wife crushes cassava while making dinner for her children and husband. Thud, thud. Salome Kamara sits on a short wooden stool and braces her bare feet against the dirt floor of her mud-walled home to better hold the heavy stick that she pounds against leaves placed in a large wooden container carved from a tree trunk. The stick is unwieldy — about as tall as the brightly dressed 28-year-old and as thick as her arm.
Beginning last year, two dramatic events began to occupy Kamara’s thoughts, even as her daily routines stayed the same. The first was all around her, in Sierra Leone’s rural Kono district: Ebola grew from a distant rumor to a deadly plague, killing hundreds of locals. Residents panicked, some health workers fled, and gun-wielding military men arrived to enforce a series of lockdowns and quarantines. But as the crisis unfolded, something else momentous was happening: Kamara learned that her fourth child was on the way.
The bigger Kamara’s belly got, she later recalled, the more awkward it was to hold the cassava-pounding stick. And never was it more uncomfortable than on the last night of this past March. After she cooked her family’s dinner, Kamara lay down in darkness to sleep; her house, like most in Kono district, has no electricity, and her mattress is formed from bags of grass. At about 4 a.m., she was awoken by sharp pains in her abdomen. Her baby was coming.