EBOLA SURVIVORS BATTLING WITH STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION IN BONG

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As the Government of Liberia and its international partners continue to make significant gains in the fight against the Ebola virus disease, its impact on survivors and communities is becoming more noticeable as survivors have complained of being stigmatized and discriminated against.

Some of the Ebola survivors recently told the Daily Observer at the Bong Ebola Treatment Unit situated in Suakoko District, that they (survivors) and their families are being rejected by their surviving relatives for fear of infection.

The International Medical Corps is the organization managing the Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit which was constructed by Save the Children International as a means of providing treatment for people coming down with the virus.

Addressing the audience, the Medical Coordinator at the Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit, Sara Phillips, said the Christmas celebration held for  the Ebola survivors was to give them new life because,  according to her, they (survivors) represent new life after surviving from the hands of the human killer disease.

Madam Phillips told Journalists the programme was intended to give the survivors hope as some communities resist welcoming survivors because of fear of contracting the virus and people’s misunderstanding about Ebola.   

The IMC Medical Coordinator specified that her organization provides Ebola survivors some blankets and clothes as well as transportation and a frequent follow-up by phone calls to ensure that they (survivors) are doing well.

The Ebola Survivors explained that people who have come into contact with infected persons, even their families, even though declared free of the disease, are stigmatized.  The International Medical Corps (IMC) held a Christmas celebration for twenty Ebola survivors.

Explaining his ordeal, one of the survivors, Dennis Khakie,  said he contracted the disease through his senior brother Joseph Khakie who was killed by the virus.

Dennis indicated that he was taken to the ELWA ETU near Monrovia with symptoms of Ebola, where he was medically monitored for 21 days, the maximum incubation period of the Ebola virus.  But his condition could not improve and he was transferred to the Bong Ebola Treatment Unit as advised by doctors.

“Even my children who were not infected with the virus, suffered a profound impact, as they have been referred to by their peers as Ebola children,” Dennis Khakie emphasized.

Another survivor J. Martin, 35, of Grand Gedeh County said he contracted the disease in Grand Gedeh County as a businessman and was transferred to the Bong County Ebola Treatment Unit for medication in September 2014 and spent seven days at the ETU.

“Although I recovered from the disease yet people still don’t believe that I am free from Ebola. A lot of persons are staying away from me,  including my friends and  neighbors” J. Martin said.

He pointed out that most of them have been discriminated against and stigmatized by their peers because they have suffered from the disease.

He told Journalists he observed that children whose parents died from the hemorrhagic fever were separated from kids whose parents were not affected by the virus during play.

The Ebola survivor reiterated his call for more attention to be given to the Ebola survivors by the Government of Liberia (GOL) and the International community towards improving  their lives through education and skills training programmes.

The Ebola survivor advanced that the Government of Liberia and its partners should deploy awareness teams to the streets and people’s homes to explain how the disease is transmitted and how people can protect themselves from contracting the virus. Doing so would help in the battle against stigmatization.

He said he would continue to encourage survivors to tell their stories and to address fears that they pose a threat to public health.  This is an important part of public outreach in fighting misconceptions about the hemorrhagic fever, J. Martin concluded.

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