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Free from Ebola: Survivor stories from West Africa

The end of Ebola

Today’s declaration that Liberia is free of Ebola transmissions is certainly a cause for celebration.  This follows Guinea’s declaration in December and Sierra Leone’s in November - ending nearly two years of struggle and survival during the largest known Ebola outbreak in history.

Ebola has killed more than 11,000 people and robbed around 22,000 children of a parent or caregiver.  Additionally, 11,315 people lost their lives to the virus – 3,508 of them children, representing more than one in four deaths.

Ebola has been a terrifying experience for children,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “We owe it to them and to all the people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to continue to support them as they recover from the devastating effects this disease has had on their lives,” he added.

Nearly everyone in the three West African countries has been touched by the disease in some way.

Stories of Heroes and Survivors

© UNICEF/UNI200644/Grile

Ebola survivor and widow with four children, Hawa Kandé in Conakry, Guinea.

“My husband was a doctor and he went to Sierra Leone to look for another job. That’s what he told us. Then he got sick from Ebola and died. I think he knew he was sick and went there because he didn’t want to infect his family. That’s why he removed himself. Even though I survived Ebola, it was hard at first to come back here. Even today some of my neighbors won’t allow their children to come over. There are days I’m very down. It’s my kids that give me strength, because I need to take care of them.”

© UNICEF/UNI200676/Grile

Learner Jan Sankoh, 13, in Waterloo, Sierra Leone.

“When Ebola came into the country, school was suspended. I was so scared at first I stayed in the house. I told my neighbors that you should wash your hands even when Ebola is not here. Not everyone believed in Ebola, but I told them that they should believe it is real. Children have the right to go to school every day. When you learn, you will have everything. I want to be a scientist. I want to study about the stars and the moon. At night, I sometimes see shooting stars outside my house. That’s why I want to be a scientist.”

© UNICEF/UNI200637/Grile

Imam Elhadj Cheikhouna Sylla in Conakry, Guinea.

“I was taken to an Ebola treatment center to see people who were sick with the disease and that strengthened my belief in Ebola’s existence. I knew I had an important role to play in the community and I gave more than 20 speeches in the mosque to convince people about Ebola. When there was a case in the community, I’d go and talk to the family about taking the person to the treatment center or about having a safe burial if the person had died. Ebola has affected the way we live together, and my hope is that there is more peace in the country.”

© UNICEF/UNI200642/Grile

National Commissioner of the Boy Scouts of Guinea Marlaye Souma in Conakry, Guinea.

“When you become a Scout you make a promise to stay a Scout for life. We say a Boy Scout for day, a Boy Scout forever. When Ebola entered the country, UNICEF supported the Boy Scouts to distribute hygiene materials in communities. People trusted us and so we were able to help convince them that the disease was real and to teach them to use proper precautions in order to protect themselves. Looking back, I’m proud as Scout to have contributed to the training of many young boys who are today giving a lot to their community.”

© UNICEF/UNI200656/Grile

County Mobilization Coordinator for UNICEF Tarlo Kerkula Slipway Community in Monrovia, Liberia.

“One time I went to the Slipway Community to visit a home where there were two sick people and two dead bodies. I was going with volunteers to talk but didn’t know the family. They chased us away by throwing sticks and water at us. I had sleepless nights after that. I tried to involve the community leaders. What I’ve learned is that every community has its own solution…if you work with them you get the desired results.”

© UNICEF/UNI200682/Grile

Ebola survivor and orphan Isata Mansaray, 10, with her grandmother Fatmata Mansaray in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

“When I was released from the treatment center I was told that my parents had gone to America, but later my uncle admitted to me that they had died from Ebola. When they were alive, they were able to give me everything I needed — I was able to get my hair done. But I don’t feel too sad now because my grandmother is looking after me. A social worker comes and plays with me and asks how I’m doing. I want to be a bank manager so I can take care of my family, especially my grandma.”

© UNICEF/UNI200673/Grile

Head teacher Elizabeth Kamara in Waterloo, Sierra Leone.

“When the schools closed because of Ebola, I decided not to sit at home idle, so I went to work at the hospital and helped wash clothes. We went for training on how to work with children who have been traumatized by the illness before the schools re-opened. When we’re in class we look at the children to identify those in need. It’s harder now to keep the children’s attention. Many have lost stability in their lives. My hope now is that by the grace of God our country will get back to normal and that we’ll be able to build up the children’s resilience.”

© UNICEF/UNI200663/Grile

Entrepreneur and Public Administration and Sociology student Pandora Hodge in Monrovia, Liberia.

“We started doing cinema screenings in communities about Ebola, but I thought there was more we could do. We had 72 students involved and with support from the Ministry of Health and UNICEF we began going door-to-door in communities. I would always inform the leaders first and then just talk to those who were willing to listen. We reached more than 400 communities. If Liberians start to put Liberia forward first, all the wishes that we have will come true. Development doesn’t come from a country, it comes from the people within the country.”

UNICEF is supporting children and communities on the long journey ahead

UNICEF’s support to vulnerable children across the three countries aims to reinforce systems for child protection. This means ensuring that national authorities are able to provide a range of protection services including psychosocial support, family tracing and reunification, interim or alternative care and state and community-based networks to prevent and respond to abuse and violence against children, who are more at risk.

In addition to child protection support, UNICEF will continue to support campaigns to maintain vigilance and awareness as well as rapid response teams that conduct active surveillance, social mobilization and early isolation and provide basic services, such as health, nutrition and water, hygiene and sanitation services.

With your help, UNICEF will support children and communities on the long journey ahead.

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