West African communities in U.S. feel devastation of Ebola outbreak

As the Ebola outbreak continues to make headlines, West African communities in the U.S. are following the events very closely, fearing for the safety of their family members back home. Ebola is the primary topic of conversation among residents of a West African enclave in the Bronx borough of New York City.

Amadou Dore, an immigrant from Guinea who lives in the Bronx community told CBS News that many West Africans simply are in denial about the outbreak -- even though an increasing number of people have fallen ill with the virus. The World Health Organization reports that as of Wednesday the death toll in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has reached 932.

"There's a lot of cities, they don't even know about it, they don't even see anything so far. A lot of people in my country don't believe; they tell you straight Ebola is a 'white thing,'" he said gesturing with air quotes.

Leaders in this tight-knit community will hold a fundraiser this weekend for family members and friends at the center of the epidemic, many of whom are gravely ill. The event is also to help raise awareness since many believe misinformation about the virus has contributed to the growing number of deaths. At the local mosque, men and boys offer special prayers for the victims back home, hoping this outbreak ends soon.

At a mosque in the Bronx, N.Y., West African immigrants pray for those affected by the Ebola outbreak.
CBS News

Issa Fofana is from Liberia. He's concerned for his sister who returned home last month to get married. Fofana has already lost his uncle and other members of his family to the outbreak.

He says the reality is that the health care system in his native country is not prepared to handle the spread of this deadly virus.

"They are taking the bodies and throwing them in the water, throwing them in the river," he told CBS News. "And that river, downstream they are using to probably wash their clothes, probably drink, who knows."