Nurith Aizenman

Midtown New York City is buzzing with thousands of women's rights activists. They're in town for a milestone session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, which runs through the end of next week.

How's this for a tough first week on the job: An earthquake rocked Haiti just five days after physician Rajiv Shah took over as head of the main U.S. agency for overseas disaster relief. The death toll was about 200,000. The U.S. was scrambling to mobilize a response. And President Obama decided Shah should be the one to lead it.

"The president called and said 'Raj, I hope you'll make us proud,'" Shah recalls of the 2010 disaster. "And I felt a deep passion and commitment to do that. So I was excited. But I was also frankly overwhelmed by the amount of work we had to do."

For six weeks, American doctor Kwan Kew Lai kept a blog, almost every day, while she volunteered at an Ebola treatment center in Liberia.

Ebola treatment centers are isolated, self-contained worlds, with their own grim rhythm: Every day, people stream in, terribly sick. And in the space of a few days, they either live or they die. Then the next wave arrives. Because the risk of infection from Ebola is so high, access to the ETUs has been severely limited. So we've had only brief glimpses into them.

Tomorrow Morning Edition will broadcast an audio documentary based on a blog by American doctor Kwan Kew Lai. Starting last October, Dr. Lai wrote almost every day, for six weeks, while volunteering at an Ebola treatment center in Bong, Liberia.

The news is filled with stories of people in need. Perhaps they've just lived through an earthquake. Or they're war refugees. Or they're facing a deadly epidemic like Ebola.

Your heart goes out to them. And you're gratified that your government and other major donors are stepping in with a massive infusion of cash and other aid.

But how do we know if all that help is actually, well, helpful.

Wedding dress rentals are way down. Condoms are no longer a hot item. And prostitutes are having trouble finding customers.

Blame it all on Ebola.

With at least 300 new cases a week in Sierra Leone, the virus is altering practically every aspect of life. And life, well, life includes love and sex. Even illicit sex.

So we wanted to find out how the epidemic has impacted these more ... intimate facets of daily experience for residents of the capital, Freetown.

If you think the fight against Ebola is going well, here's a grim new number: 537.

That's how many new infections were reported in Sierra Leone in the past week. It's the highest weekly tally in any country since the West African outbreak began.

International governments and aid groups have scrambled to open Ebola treatment centers in the country. But, because of safety concerns, many of these centers are accepting only a fraction of the number of patients they were built to serve.

Ebola is on the rise in Sierra Leone's capital of Freetown. Just this week, 234 new confirmed infections were reported, and every day hundreds of residents call the emergency line to report more possible cases in their neighborhoods.

To deal with the surge, the nation sends health surveillance teams into the community to investigate the alerts, visiting up to five homes a day to check on residents.

The junior member of one team is Osman Sow, a young man with a wisp of a beard and a serious manner.

One reason the Ebola virus is so terrifying is that it's so lethal. Researchers estimate that the strain circulating in West Africa is killing upward of 70 percent of those it infects. Even among those getting care, as many as 64 percent are dying.

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