Saturday, 9 August 2014

Ebola-- 7-Year-Old Boy And Others Survive Ebola In Sierra Leone - Let's Keep Hope Alive

 Vandy Jawad 7, is a reminder of hope and survival in an otherwise deeply tragic situation. He was in the treatment centre at Kenema for more than one month after contracting the virus in Daru village about 40 km out of Kenema town, and one of the worst affected communities in Sierra Leone.

According to nurses, he displayed some very serious symptoms when first admitted, “That small boy was very, very sick. We did not think he would survive as so many haven’t,” said Sister Nancy Yoko, the nurse in charge of the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kenema.

Vandy started showing signs of recovery a couple of weeks ago slowly gathering his strength. When he finally achieved a negative test result, which revealed there was no more Ebola virus in his system, it was time for him to go home.

“Little Vandy provided laughter at the most unlikely moments inside that ward, I’m so happy for his recovery, “ commented a British volunteer nurse who treated him inside the centre.

Sister Nancy Yoko hold up photo of survivors who have left the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kenema. © UNICEF Sierra Leone/2014/Dunlop

Before patients leave the ward, they are presented with transport money to get home (about US$10), a clean set of clothes, and a certificate declaring that they are healthy and no longer have Ebola. They are photographed and congratulated by staff, and in humble way, celebrated for their resilience.

Vandy was also given a small plastic truck and showed it off to all the nurses before he left the restricted compound area with an enormous grin on his face. “It’s nice for the children to have a toy before they go, it makes them happy, look at Vandy,” said Sister Nancy.

Isata Konneh shows off her certificate of good health © UNICEF Sierra Leone/2014/Dunlop

Isata Konneh (35) was another patient who I met leaving the ward. She had tears in her eyes and proudly displayed her certificate to the nurses “I am so happy for this day, I thank God that he has helped me survive” she says.

Many of those contracting the virus are themselves health workers who come in daily contact with very sick patients. Six nurses from the Kenema Treatment Centre, have died. Among the staff infected is survivor Fatmata Sesay who I met after she was released from the ward along with her 11-year-old daughter Tata. Fatmata spent three weeks in the ward while Tata was there for two, “I am the happiest person in the world right now.”

“I knew I was very sick as I was bleeding through my nose and vomiting blood clots, but I am lucky, I am better now and so is Tata. It is not easy to recover from this terrible disease,” says Fatmata.

Fatmata and her daughter Tata. © UNICEF Sierra Leone/2014/Dunlop

As the survivors leave the hospital there are often several local media waiting to photograph them and hear their story. Fatmata raises her arms in the air, “I thank Allah and the nurses who have cared for me, we are alive”.

Ebola survivors can play a valuable role in dispelling myths and in gaining community support in the fight against Ebola. Some people in Sierra Leone still have not accepted that Ebola is real. While many survivors fear stigma, some are now coming forward and telling their brave stories. Community mobilisation is a vital part of the Ebola response and these testimonies will help communities to accept that Ebola is a serious illness that the community must fight it together.

When survivors leave the Ebola Treatment Centre, they are given about $US10 for transport to get home, a clean set of clothes and a certificate of good health. Children are also given toys. They are often met outside the Treatment Centre grounds by local media who are eager to hear their stories. © UNICEF Sierra Leone/2014/Dunlop


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