Mabinty Tarawally — 1-1-7 Hotline ResponderPosted on by
Mabinty Tarawally has worked as a 1-1-7 Call Center responder for almost a year. When she began, the national call center consisted of seven people who handled 100 calls a day in a small room at the World Health Organization’s Sierra Leone country office. Tarawally joined the 1-1-7 Call Center in September 2014, and has seen the number and nature of calls from Sierra Leoneans change over the course of the outbreak.
During this time, calls were coming in so fast, it was hard to keep up. With support from the CDC Foundation, the call center moved into a larger space, expanded its operating hours, and hired 60 more responders. According to Tarawally, “We were able to cover three shifts, making it possible for the 1-1-7 Call Center to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Tarawally and her colleagues received questions like: “What is Ebola, why is it here, and is there a cure?” She also fielded requests for ambulances to take persons with Ebola-like symptoms to medical care centers. Callers also made requests for burial teams to provide safe and dignified burials to those who had died.
Tarawally notes it takes patience and courage to be a call center responder. “You never know what you will hear on a call.” She remembers a call from a 24-year-old lady who had seven siblings. “Both parents had died from Ebola, and she was left to care for the rest of her family. But she didn’t know how she would do it.”
Another time, someone called from a home that was under quarantine, because residents had contact with an Ebola patient. “The caller reported that there was no food in the home, and no one was allowed to go out. They asked for food; it was very sad,” she recalled. After the call ended, Tarawally entered the request into the system.
Almost a year into the outbreak, Tarawally says the calls keep coming in at a steady rate, but it’s less frantic in the call center. There are fewer cases being reported and people have more information about Ebola and how to prevent its spread.
Tarawally and her colleagues have had more training now, including how to handle angry callers who sometimes blame the call center responders for delayed ambulances or other services. Even through these challenges, Tarawally maintains her faith in the call center and her role. “We are the front of this response; we are the first contact that many people have for information and help,” she says.
Although she doesn’t know the answers to some questions that callers are now asking–like when Ebola will end–Tarawally says her job is to give reassurance and hope.