Gritty Ganta: The Liberian Town That Can't Catch A Break : Goats and Soda Bedraggled Ganta sprawls over red-dirt hills. Buildings destroyed in the civil war have not been rebuilt. And now the border town is suffering again in the battle against Ebola.
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Gritty Ganta: The Liberian Town That Can't Catch A Break

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Gritty Ganta: The Liberian Town That Can't Catch A Break

Gritty Ganta: The Liberian Town That Can't Catch A Break

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's a town in Liberia that was once destroyed by the country's brutal civil war. Now it is at the front line in the battle against Ebola. Ganta sits on the Liberian border just across the river from Guinea. There used to be a busy crossing between the two countries, but because of Ebola, that crossing has closed, which has put many people out of work. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAFFIC)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: This is the main road in Ganta. It's about a mile long and most of it is red dust, unpaved. Motorbike taxis ferry people - one, two and three on the bike - despite Ebola and being told that people should not be touching one another. Now this city has been hard hit. Battered by the civil war, Ganta is home to around 40,000 people and is one of Liberia's largest cities. Many buildings destroyed during the conflict remain gutted, others are popped by the artillery and mortar fire of the conflict that ended more than 10 years ago. Tarmac covers only a small portion of Ganta's rutted, red dirt roads. Potholes nearly swallow up vehicles. There seems to have been very little investment in this vital border town.

PRINCE HAWARD: You see the kind of road you just drove on to come here? - are we not ashamed?

QUIST-ARCTON: Local entrepreneur and businessman Prince Haward says even before Ebola, gritty Ganta was struggling. Yet, he says, it remains a major crossroads.

HAWARD: People from the southeastern region, they must transit in Ganta. People from Monrovia, they must transit in Ganta. Ganta is non-sleeping city. This is what Ganta is known for; a business-oriented city.

QUIST-ARCTON: But for many people, there's very little business right now. Yards from the border with Guinea, young men play whist under the shade of a mango tree. They were money changers until the borders closed in July. A very unhappy Prince Dolo says Ebola put an abrupt ending to their livelihoods.

PRINCE DOLO: Have nothing to do, border is closed. And I'm just vulnerable and unemployed. I'm not happy, five months now. Without the border, Ganta is just dead.

QUIST-ARCTON: Just off Ganta's main street, 18-year-old orange seller Bebe Gono says she's struggling.

BEBE GONO: (Through translator) We are struggling and we are trying to find the little we can afford. Five - five dollars to survive.

QUIST-ARCTON: Are you saying things are tough here in Ganta?

GONO: (Through translator) Yes, things are hard in Ganta.

QUIST-ARCTON: Comparing Liberia's civil war with Ebola in her town, Bebe Gono says both have been difficult.

GONO: (Through translator) Ganta has suffered a lot. We've suffered a lot. We lost a lot of people to the war and we also lost people to Ebola, so we've suffered a lot. As compared to the war, Ebola is worse.

QUIST-ARCTON: Gono never went to school and can't read or write, but she says if she just had a little money she'd like to open a business. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Ganta.

MARTIN: You're listening to NPR News.

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