According to the WHO Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Summary, a total of 17,942 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) have been reported in five affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, and the US) and three previously affected countries (Nigeria, Senegal and Spain). As of December 10, 2014 there has been 6,388 reported deaths.
The most affected country is Sierra Leone accounting for 7,897 cases. In a statement given on December 10, 2014, the WHO discovered the situation in one district (Kono – commonly known as the diamond district) to be more dire than expected. Over 11 days, the response team buried 87 bodies, including a nurse, ambulance driver and janitor (who was recruited to assist with the removal of bodies). The team also found 25 people, all who died in the last 5 days, piled in a cordoned section of the hospital.
Some of you may wonder what good or life can come from a virus known to have 10% survival rate. Does hope exist? Can it exist? I even wondered this myself. Most of the international stories surfacing deal with so much of the negative it seems hope is lost in the fight against Ebola. Well, I am here to bring you a new perspective. One I hope will inspire during this time of loss, uncertainty and fear. May this post shine brightly in the midst of the fight to contain Ebola.
Allow me to introduce you to some local survivors, who have now committed themselves to educating communities and working in Ebola facilities to comfort both families and patients. Please meet a few overlooked Ebola Fighters.
Mohamed and Zena are Ebola survivors from Guinea. Both became infected with the virus while caring for Mohamed’s older brother, who at the time, they were not aware had Ebola. The virus hit their family hard, with 9 becoming infected and 6 dying.
After recovering, Zena, a 24 year old school teacher and Mohamed, a 34 year old civil servant both lost their jobs from the stigmatization attached to the disease. Even with facing so much loss in their lives both knew they wanted to become more active in stopping the transmission of the virus so other families could survive and not endure the same pain they suffered from. They wanted to work to keep villages in tact and safe.
Medecins Sans Frontieres and other NGOs saw this as an opportunity and have deemed both Zena and Mohamed, Ebola Ambassadors. They go around communities contributing their personal stories to share knowledge, save lives and ultimately control the outbreak.
Then there is Salome Karwah of Liberia. Salome, her parents, fiance, sister and niece all became infected after her uncle contracted the virus by taking another infected woman to the hospital. Shortly after his death, Salome and her entire family, found themselves at an Ebola treatment center for care.
She describes her experience as:
“Severe pains were shooting inside my body. The feeling was overpowering: Ebola is like a sickness from a different planet. It comes with so much pain, and it causes so much pain that you can feel it deep in your bones.”
After 18 days, and following the loss of her parents, she tested negative for the virus and was able to go home with her fiance, sister and niece. After arriving home to fearful neighbors, she knew she needed to do more to educate and fight the stigma attached to Ebola. Currently Salome is back at the same treatment center who provided her care working as a mental health counsellor. She treats patients as family and shares her story to inspire them through it all.
Dr. Ada Igonoh a Nigerian doctor, takes you on an emotional rollercoaster as she recounts her experience surviving the deadly Ebola virus. A story so powerful, it has spread across the world like wildfire. Now as a survivor she uses some of her time to educate the world on her experience. She discusses her fears, the realities, thoughts and the tools she used to pull through the hardest of her days.
Sadly, Ebola continues to threaten the lives of millions. However, even through the storm, can light be seen. I found these stories to be inspirational as we work to #EndEbola. We all have a part to play. To understand the magnitude of loss experienced by Mohamed, Zena and Salome and yet to see the passion blazing through them, now all working to care for their communities is a selfless act and one we should all aim to recognize. In fact, Time Magazine has deemed such actions as Heroic naming a few as ‘Person of the Year.‘
Let’s not further the stigmatization or lose sight of what it takes to end such a deadly virus. Instead educate yourself on the virus and take time to hear more stories of survivors and how they too change the tide of this current epidemic. Donate. Write a governmental official. Blog. Whatever positive action you chose to take could make the impact necessary to perhaps… just perhaps… #EndEbola.