Ebola War: The Nurses of Gulu transports us into the eye of a virulent epidemic. The power and poignancy of this heroic five month struggle against a modern day plague is told from the perspective of the health care workers.

Photo (c)2002 Alethia Productions Inc.Life is hard in Gulu. 16 years of civil conflict - then the killing fever. Without adequate protective gear and training, the nurses were vulnerable. Four died in the first week. Medical staff were suspected by villagers of spreading the disease. Distrust was one of many demons nurses had to battle. Friends turned their backs. Family members begged them to quit work. They refused.

Ebola kills up to 90% of its victims. Internal organs melt. Bodily fluids pour from openings. Blood becomes a bomb - that continues into the grave. The virus stays alive in secretions of the dead for three days.

The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control moved in. For the first time Canada was asked to join the Global Response Network Team. Health Canada sent in 3 field epidemiologists.

Despite the odds, the lack of equipment, the death of colleagues, fear and discrimination – these men and women remained with their patients until the very end. By the time the disease was spent, 163 people were dead – including 12 nurses and Dr. Matthew Lukwiya.

Shot on location in isolation wards and villages – the stunning beauty of Africa collides with terror.

Photo (c)2002 Alethia Productions Inc.Viewers see painful reminders of suffering. But,they also experience the unspeakable joy and exuberance of February 27, 2001 – Ebola Free Day.

Trauma and triumph are explored in gripping eyewitness accounts, haunting music, unforgettable images and narration delivered by acclaimed actress, Marina Orsini.
"Ebola War: The Nurses of Gulu" is an intimate and moving look at the harsh reality of health care workers, the ethical decisions they face, the sacrifices they make. A timely tale in an age of new heroes, new dangers.


How the Show Unfolds

Photo (c)2002 Alethia Productions Inc.BLOCK ONE – The documentary opens with the community of Gulu - celebrating its victory over Ebola. It quickly takes us back in time to the reality of life in this developing country. The existence is harsh. Gulu is a community of 300,000 – most poor farmers from the Acholi tribe. Almost half population is under 25. Few reach age of 50. There have been 16 years of civil conflict. Then the epidemic strikes. In the last week of of September cases multiply. The first two nursing students die. The pace quickens as alarm sets in with the realization that the outbreak is deadly. The expert, Dr. Matthew is called in from Kampala. He begins isolating patients. Fear and confusion are reflected on screen. There are few protectives.. Three weeks after first symptoms - word arrives that blood is Ebola positive.


Photo (c)2002 Alethia Productions Inc.BLOCK TWO – In this section, we discover more about the culture of Gulu and how that impacts on the spread of the disease. Physical contact and interaction are traditionally part of life - ideal conditions for spreading the disease. We meet Canadian field epidemiologist Dr. Bonnie Henry for the first time and hear a graphic portrayal of the disease and hospital conditions."You are walking on the virus, you are touching the virus, the linens of the patients are full of the virus." One nurses dies every week. There is sadness and uncertainty. The hospital becomes a fearful place. The burial site is restricted. Word comes that help is on the way


Photo (c)2002 Alethia Productions Inc.BLOCK THREE – News of the Ebola outbreak in Gulu spreads. Villagers panic By now 30 patients have died - in addition to the nurses. The Global Alert Response Network, a task force of health professions from Europe and North America arrives in Gulu - bringing an arsenal of modern medical equipment and supplies. Its mission is to contain the spread of the virus. They fear it may be too late. A central lab is set up in St. Mary's Hospital. Members of the (CDC) Centers for Disease Control oversee the operation. Blood samples screening takes place round the clock. (WHO) World Health Organization specialists train the nurses, provide protectives and reassurance. Misunderstandings continue in community. Family members begin hiding loved ones suspected of having the virus. A mass education campaign fans out into the community - identifying potential cases and working to alleviate suspicion. People fear the hospital - as it is there family members die. Nurses fear for their own family members. They begin to isolate themselves. The community bans them from the marketplace.


Photo (c)2002 Alethia Productions Inc.BLOCK FOUR – Panic in the community continues. Nurses are shunned. Some of the strongest and most hurtful criticism comes from colleagues. Nurses threaten to leave the ward. Dr. Matthew rallies his staff., "You are heroes." They are compared to battle hardened soldiers. The nurses return to the wards. By late November the epidemic appears under control. Then disaster strikes full force. Three medical staff are stricken with Ebola - among them Dr. Matthew. Through his last night, as he slips in and out of consciousness, Dr. Matthew reminds staff of their mission, and encourages them to work hard. He loses his battle against Ebola on December . He is the last staff member to die from the virus.


Photo (c)2002 Alethia Productions Inc.BLOCK FIVE – Word of what has happened in Gulu is carried by the international press.. By the end of January all suspected cases test negative for Ebola. If no cases are confirmed for 21 days, the outbreak will be considered over. Field workers continue to comb countryside. The 27th of February is declared Ebola Free. Again our camera takes us to the victory celebration. Thousands gather at the Gulu football stadium to celebrate. There is music, dancing and joy. Not to be forgotten as those who died. For them there is grief displayed at the graveside memorial service. Fiends and colleagues gather to remember. The program ends with recognition of what has been accomplished - that there was courage - that they never quit.