Our crisis-driven journalism usually leaves very little airtime to post-disaster stories. Fascinated by numbers, facts, and definitions, news outlets rarely go back to show us the challenges of rebuilding a broken community. Even more uncommon is for Western media to give complete control of such narratives to the very people from those communities. However, Back in Touch, an interactive documentary on the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone from On Our Radar and New Internationalist, skillfully strips down the disaster relief storyline from Western doctors, aid agencies, and voiceless victims, instead featuring stories reported by young Sierra Leoneans themselves.
Using only basic mobile technology, citizens-turned-journalists take their skills back to their communities to show what it means to live in a post-Ebola society. In the first episode, we follow Mariama B Jalloh, a twenty-five-year-old student from Northern Sierra Leone who lost twenty-seven family members to the epidemic, as she is looking for her father’s name among hundreds of poorly marked graves.
Other stories talk about finding love during a time when hugging and kissing were strictly prohibited, or finally being able to go cheer for the national team after the two-year ban on public gatherings. However, the stories also present the darker side of the Ebola crisis. Since many families were cut off from their livelihoods, young girls became the most vulnerable. Elizabeth Katta talks about taking care of her twelve-year-old sister’s son.
Back in Touch paints an incredibly honest picture of the impact Ebola had on the country. Every story, although extremely local in scope, helps us gain a more universal understanding of the hardships and hopes that fill the lives of Sierra Leonians.