A 55-year-old truck driver shares his experience of Ebola prevention with guest writer, and West Africa Project Manager, Samba Touray at the Bambatenda Ferry Crossing Point .

Just inside the Gambia, at the Bambatenda ferry crossing point, we meet Modou Faye, a 55-year-old Senegalese truck-driver possessing thirty (30) years’ experience playing a sub-regional route linking Dakar to Ziguinchore in the southern region of Senegal, as well as to Bamako in Mali, Banjul in the Gambia and Guinea Conakry-Senegal borders.

Mr. Faye more or less spends twenty days each month away from his home and family for business trips. With the Ebola outbreak in West Africa this year, Mr. Faye had not travelled to any of the affected Ebola countries but only visited Guinea-Senegal borders, where he noticed a remarkable difficulty experienced by people crossing these borders.

With the demanding nature of his job, he does not have the dedicated time to participate in any Ebola sensitisation programme in any forms of the mass media; but he occasionally listens to the radio in his aging-truck along his series of compelling journeys. He learned about the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) this way, and knows it as a deadly disease that could be contracted through human-to-human contact, when one comes into contact with saliva, excessive vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and bleeding from openings such as ears and nose. He also understands that the viral disease can be transmitted from animal to animal hence it is harmful for humans to eat bush meat.

“[The] other learning point for me was the discussion I had with the North Star Alliance [IEC/BCC] team during my five day wait at the Bambatenda ferry crossing point,” said Mr. Faye, “where I learned that the Ebola virus can be prevented by observing basic hygiene practices such as hand washing and avoiding hand shaking.”

Mr. Faye, who has not known anyone who has contracted the disease in his native country of Senegal, has only heard of one imported case from a confirmed Ebola patient – a University student from Guinea Conakry, which he considered to be potentially grapevine.

“Ebola has caused restriction on movement of trucks and goods within the West African sub-region.” says Mr. Faye.

The Ebola situation in West Africa has restricted the free movement of people and goods, and is impacting negatively on trade. Truck drivers are bearing its brunt at borders and crossing points, where they undergo screening and observe safe hygienic measures such as hand washing before entering a country.

He implored the general public to be vigilant and report suspected cases to the nearest hospital, especially those travelling from affected countries. A definitive end to the West African tradition of hand shaking, he argued, “should be stopped for everybody’s safety’’.

North Star Alliance project manager, Samba Touray, interviewing truck drivers in West Africa.

North Star Alliance project manager, Samba Touray, interviewing truck drivers in West Africa.

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Photography | David Childley, Gideon Mendel