Stigma and doubt petiole Ebola survivors

Tulip holding hands

“Can we cuddle you?” encampment helper Joyce Jebambula asks with a lucent grin as she welcomes me behind to her encampment in Hill Station, Freetown.

“Of course,” we contend as we hurl my arms around her. It’s a enchanting moment.

When we visited a area during a height of a outbreak, there was an “avoid physique contact” order in place. It’s now been lifted.

One of a many severe tools of stating this conflict over a past 18 months, is that we haven’t been means to hold anyone in a worst-affected countries.

When Ebola survivors pennyless down in tears describing losing their families, we had to roughly lay on my hands to equivocate reaching out to comfort them.

Image caption

Survivor Kadiatu, who mislaid her 3 brothers, says neighbours demeanour down on her

The outbreak was announced over in Sierra Leone on 7 November. we returned for a celebrations. But notwithstanding reaching this long-awaited milestone, all is not well.

Ibrahim Koroma, 21, clings to his survivor’s certificate outward a home he used to share with his family in Hill Station. All 17 of them are now dead.

The certificate is one of his many cherished possessions. “He does not poise any risk to a community” it reads.

Ibrahim tells me how his landlord has authorised him to stay in one of a bedrooms of his former family home until a finish of a year. He says he doesn’t know what he’ll do after that. He had been study maths and scholarship during college, nonetheless he can no longer means a fee fees. He works as a infrequent labourer, relying heavily on handouts from neighbours.

Media captionIbrahim’s security were broken for fear they could gulf a lethal virus

His dual tiny sisters and tiny hermit died in a really room in that he now sleeps. He says he mostly lies watchful meditative about them.

He tells me he’s tired and lonely.

Worst on record

The Ebola conflict in West Africa was a misfortune on record.

In past outbreaks there had usually been a few hundred deaths and a few hundred survivors. Now there are around 17,000 survivors and scientists are anticipating out new and astonishing things about a longer-term impact of a disease.

Until this outbreak, it was suspicion Ebola could stay in semen for usually 3 months after patients recovered. But research in Sierra Leone has now shown it can dawdle for during slightest 9 months.

Scientists are still perplexing to settle how prolonged it can insist in a body, and, crucially, for how prolonged it could be infectious.

There’s been one famous box where a masculine survivor putrescent his partner and it was 6 months after he recovered.


Find out more

Tulip Mazumdar’s Our World news Surviving Ebola can be seen on a BBC News Channel and BBC World News (click for delivery times). Readers in a UK can watch it after 04:30 GMT on Saturday on a BBC iPlayer.

How a conflict spread


The World Health Organization (WHO) says all masculine survivors should be offering giveaway semen contrast so they know their status. But there’s usually one contrast trickery in a whole of Sierra Leone.

I spoke to a survivor who was giving samples as partial of a Viral Persistence Study, run by a method of health, a WHO, and a US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Freetown.

Military helper Sgt Hassan Samura told me how he can never utterly relax when he’s with friends or family. He pronounced he constantly has a paltry fear over either a pathogen could still be inside him and either he could poise a hazard to others.

His stress is understandable. The universe is in new domain and there are many unknowns.

But a WHO says any such risk is low. It points out that there are thousands of Ebola survivors now and, if they were flitting on a pathogen widely, we’d know about it.

Media captionDr Suzanna McDonald says evidence-gathering is pivotal to shortening stigma

However, a group is questioning either new cases reported in Liberia after it was announced Ebola-free in Sep could have originated from a survivor. Similar questions have been lifted in Guinea after a nation went dual weeks nonetheless a case, nonetheless afterwards a new infection emerged in someone who had apparently had no tighten hit with a famous Ebola patient.

There have also been a tiny series of cases where mothers have putrescent their babies, since a pathogen lingered in their breast milk. New mothers, who survived Ebola, are now suggested opposite breastfeeding if they have an choice food supply for their child. Sierra Leone is a bad country, so many don’t.

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Survivors’ physique fluids are tested for traces of a virus

In a past few weeks, breast divert and other physique fluids, such as vaginal fluids, urine, persperate and even tears have started being tested as partial of a Viral Persistence Study.

As we expostulate around Freetown, tatty aged posters display what do to if a desired one becomes ill are being transposed by glossy new ones display smiling Ebola survivors with captions like “Welcome Ebola survivors home, they are heroes”.

The biggest problem confronting people who have recovered, stays stigmatisation.

Many are ostracised and wandering from their communities. They can’t get jobs, people are questionable of them, even tiny children are shunned by their former friends. It’s all since of stability fear, disagreement and misinformation.

As with a conflict itself, a biggest plea stays ensuring people know a contribution about Ebola, and about survivors.

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Getty Images

That’s since it’s so critical to settle and behind adult these contribution with systematic justification and that can usually occur if survivors have entrance to medical follow-ups and are not too frightened to come brazen – since of stigma.

Many are confronting stability health problems after flourishing Ebola.

The medical gift MSF says around 75% are traffic with complications including psychological trauma, headaches, corner pains, impassioned tired and problems with their eyes.

I met one survivor, Mabinty Kargbo, who had ideal prophesy and was really active in her encampment before she became sick.

Image caption

Mabinty lives in a capital, Freetown, where there is some-more assistance accessible to survivors

Now, many months after recuperating from Ebola, Mabinty has all nonetheless mislaid her sight. As we watch her onslaught to open her flowing eyes, we am reminded of a box of American Ebola survivor Dr Ian Crozier.

I had spoken to him only a few weeks earlier. He explained how – like Mabinty – he became intensely ill a few months after recuperating from Ebola and partially mislaid his vision.

Tests on Dr Crozier found a inside of his eyeball was “teeming” with a virus. The aspect of his eye and his tears were transparent though.

Mabinty doesn’t have entrance to that turn of caring and expertise. She was given some simple medicines and reassured that her steer will lapse if she takes her drugs regularly.

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Ad debate job for an finish to stigma

Mabinty is deliberate one of a propitious ones in Sierra Leone. She lives in a collateral so she has improved entrance to caring than anywhere else in a country.

The WHO has described a hurdles confronting survivors as “an puncture within an emergency”. It is propelling NGOs, donors and abroad medics and scientists to sojourn in a nation even nonetheless a conflict has been announced over.

As Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma told me “we have started a quarrel that we have not nonetheless finished… we need a general encampment to stay engaged”.

That same evening, thousands of people took to a travel to applaud a finish of a outbreak. They danced, they shouted “Ebola’s left away”, and they illuminated candles in memory of a 221 health workers who mislaid their lives in this fight.

A tiny fortuitous pennyless off from a shrill coronet band, some holding cinema of desired ones, and began singing,

“We shall overcome, we shall over come some day.”

“Deep in my heart, we do trust that we shall overcome some day.”

Follow @TulipMazumdar on Twitter


Read Tulip’s other reports on Ebola

Ebola: Isn’t that over yet?

“Fear, denial, and tired fuelling outbreak”

Sierra Leone annals 0 new infections

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