Infectious Diseases

Updated 22 January 2015

Ebola: from devastation to survival and solidarity

As the world’s worst-ever Ebola epidemic seems to be ebbing, survivors are sharing tips of hope and resilience as life slowly returns to normal.

It has been a difficult and long path for health care workers and survivors battling Ebola.

Starting to wind down

The disease claimed the lives of 8 641 people in the last year, with 21 724 cases being reported in nine countries, according to the World Health Organisation. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been the three West African nations hardest hit by Ebola.

Currently, the rate of transmission has slowed in Guinea and Liberia and there are signs it is starting to wind down in Sierra Leone too. Mali also became the latest country to be declared Ebola-free, following Nigeria and Senegal.

Although a British nurse is recovering in hospital in London, no further cases have been reported among foreign health workers returning to Britain, Spain or the United States,

Read: Pressure on to develop treatment for Ebola

However, there is still a big push to develop vaccines and some are now undergoing clinical trials.

Despite the progress made to contain and combat the deadly disease, a big challenge is having to deal with the stigma attached to Ebola infection and recovery.

Now a new mobile app, the latest component of the #ISurvivedEbola campaign, aims to address this. With the ISurvivedEbola app, survivors are sharing messages of hope and inspiration, life-saving health tips and advice to overcome prejudice.

Carole Tomko, general manager and creative director of Vulcan Productions, said the campaign allows very moving, personal stories to be seen and heard globally.

A key way in which the campaign does this is by documenting survivor stories in video, audio, and print formats; then disseminating these stories via the media and online platforms.

Read: Could Ebola hit SA?

“The mobile app really changes the face of this campaign by empowering the people of West Africa to share stories about Ebola and survivorship with each other and the world.  

"The app gives a human face to survivorship and has the potential to create a sense of community in which the survivors, rather than being stigmatised, become leaders and heroes in this fight."

In the first-ever message sent, Camara “Fanta” Fantaoulen of Guinea stated: “Yes, I survived Ebola, thanks to the help of the brave healthcare workers who treated me. And I’ve learned that together, we can defeat this virus and protect our families and communities.”

After losing her father and five other relatives, Fanta believed her death was imminent when she tested positive for the virus. But she recovered from the virus thanks to a combination of early treatment, strict adherence to her treatment plan and sheer determination.  

Fanta is now providing psychosocial support to Ebola patients. View here video:

A Pillar of Strength and Support for Fellow Ebola Victims: Fanta’s Story of Survival and Solidarity from #ISurvivedEbola on Vimeo.

Read: SA medical team ready for Ebola fight

The latest Liberia video introduces the world to 23-year-old Decontee Davis, who overcame Ebola but lost her fiancé to the virus. Decontee now works in an Interim Care Centre for children who have come in contact with Ebola patients and are under 21 days of observation.

Many of these children have lost one or both parents to the disease. View her video:

Mother of Many: Ebola Survivor Decontee's Mission to Help Children Touched by the Outbreak from #ISurvivedEbola on Vimeo.

In the new Sierra Leone video, audiences meet Aminata Kargbo. She is a university student who, after surviving Ebola, is speaking out on efforts to educate her fellow countrymen and women on the benefits of early treatment.

The Power of Early Treatment: Aminata’s Story of Ebola Survival and How She is Using it to Help Others from #ISurvivedEbola on Vimeo.

Currently, campaign staff in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are providing each survivor who has shared his or her story through the campaign with a smartphone installed with the app, thereby enabling these individuals to use the technology to share information about their lives after recovery.

The mobile app updates will be shared globally on the newly launched #ISurvivedEbola website.

Also read:

Schools to reopen in Sierra Leone as Ebola abates
Ebola virus gets more lethal as it spreads
Is it Ebola or is it flu?


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