UPDATE-Ebola in West Africa – The aftermath
Ebola in West Africa has hardly ran its course, as emergency health workers continue to struggle with reporting, quarantines and getting enough first responders on the ground in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Yet the aftermath of the outbreak is already being felt by survivors who have been shunned, rejected and treated as “lepers” by society and even their own extended family, and are now beginning to tell their stories.
The stories being told by those who survived the deadly virus, and are no longer contagious,…being refused admission to college, to return to their village, and of villagers running away from them due to fear of contracting the disease. Even the villagers who fled the disease rather than stay in the quarantine area cannot escape the effects of the virus, and are being shunned by the villages they flee to, or are chased away with rocks, as if they too had the disease.
It may still be too early to judge the toll taken on these survivors and their villages/families. But the struggles they continue to face, after having lost so much, are becoming clearer day by day. In the following stories, survival may not be the blessing it was first assumed. As the deadly virus continues to ravage the countryside, it also continues to ruin those who survived it’s rage.
We are sure these are just the first of many such stories we will hear over the next year or two, even after the ebola virus has been contained and slipped back into an uneasy dormancy.
In the first story, Kadiatou Fanta’s not been allowed back into college. Or allowed back to work at the health center where she initially contracted the disease. Her boyfriend has broken up with her. She eats alone and sleeps alone, and her family members are afraid to touch her even months after she survived Ebola.
“Ebola has ruined my life even though I am cured,” she says. “No one wants to spend a minute in my company for fear of being contaminated.” – Kadiatou Fanta
In Sierra Leone, Sulaiman Kemokai, 20, says his community are reluctant to have any physical contact with him. And in Liberia, even child survivors are being left to starve to death in villages by those too afraid to go into homes where people had had, or died, of ebola. “Nobody wants to come near me and they know — people have even told them that I don’t have Ebola.” one young boy said. Meanwhile the villagers who have abandoned others have themselves been shunned by neighboring towns afraid of the virus.
But other effects linger. Spouses left those who were infected. Neighbors burned belongings — blankets, clothes, beds, a few entire huts — in an already poor place. Many survivors, returning alive but weak, have found themselves shunned, occasionally with walls built around them.
It appears that the current strain of ebola is possibly the least deadly of the four kinds of ebola identified in Africa. The worst strain kills about 90 percent of its victims, as it did in an outbreak in the Congolese city of Kikwit in 1995, when 244 people died.
The strain in Uganda, the weakest of the four, has killed between 50 and 55 percent of its victims, health officials say.
As for the survivors, even those now speaking out for the World Health Organization prefer not to use their real names or show their faces in print due to the social ostracism. (More at http://www.who.int/features/2014/life-after-ebola/en/)
Others are finding new roles working with doctors, hospitals, caring for other victims or speaking out trying to educate people who haven’t yet experienced an ebola outbreak in their villages yet. And slowly, some are seeing progress in being re-accepted into their communities although warily. (More at http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/10/world/africa/ebola-survivor-red-cross/)
Some beautiful pictures of survivors can be seen at http://blogs.unicef.org/2014/08/07/ebola-in-sierra-leone-the-joy-of-survivors/ many with their certificates of good health.
Read more about the outbreak of ebola in West Africa at: https://www.socialgoodinsurance.com/travel/security-issues-and-concerns/west-africa-ebola-epidemic-already-deadliest-ever/ as well as follow the latest updates.