Recently, I was fortunate to meet another feisty ebola survivor in the Newton Community Care Centre run by ActionAid in Western Area. She deserves admiration not just for her courage to defeat the disease but also for her dedication to serve the Ebola affected community in Newton after her recovery. Instead of resting and recuperating at her home, she chose to work at the ActionAid managed Community Care Centre at Newton and work with the Ebola affected community. Below is her story of remarkable courage and dedication...
I am Adiatu, aged 40 from Hill station in Freetown. I worked as a nurse in a hospital in Freetown. I was quite happy with my life and job. My family includes my husband who works in the military; my son aged 9, two sisters, brother and mother. Little did I realise that life will take such a turn while doing my duties in the hospitals. It was in October 2014, when me and two of my colleagues contracted Ebola while attending to the patients at the hospital. We were immediately admitted to the nearest Ebola treatment centre. By the time I recovered on 10th November, two of my colleagues had already died. This was a great shock to me and I was deeply traumatised. The hospital in which I worked gave me sick leave with salary to rest and recover. I went back to my house and burnt my belongings to avoid any spread of infection to my family members. Fortunately since the house belonged to us, neighbours could not drive us away from there unlike other survivors. But like other survivors, the stigma of being a survivor affected me as well. My son was afraid to come near me and he was teased by his friends that his mother was an Ebola patient.
After recovering from the deadly disease, I wanted to set an example and work for Ebola affected community. Since January, I have been working as a manager of Newton Community care centre managed by ActionAid and supported by UNICEF. These centres are established for ensuring prevention by involving community people. These centres are meant for early detection and early isolation thus breaking the transmission. Since we started our operation, we have dealt with a total of 39 cases. We have four new cases this week. Apart from dealing with the cases, we also do social mobilisation where we encourage the community not to hide anyone with symptoms, and in case of any death, they should go for safe and dignified burials by calling 117 (Ebola hotline number in Sierra Leone). We also engage with Neighbourhood watch members to deal with traditional leaders regarding burials.
We need to work with the survivors and care for them. We need to give them continued medication to increase their immunity. Some of the survivors cannot afford it because they do not have jobs.
So the government and other organisations should try to get jobs for the survivors. Regarding the stigma, ActionAid’s social mobilisation teams should continue to educate communities on ebola and bring confidence back to the survivors. Let us all come together to fight the disease and empower the survivors and affected communities!
In Western area in Sierra Leone, ActionAid manages two ebola community care centres (CCC) supported by UNICEF (one at Newton and one at Hamilton). Each CCC has 24 beds and 31 health and support staff deployed by the District Health Management Team. As well as recruiting staff, ActionAid has also selected and trained 20 community volunteers to serve as Neighbourhood Watch Members (10 in each CCC) in the host and 10 catchment communities to inform the people about the relevance of the CCCs and the importance of taking the sick to the care centres rather than keeping them at home. Management Committees comprising of community stakeholders like the Councilors, Members of Parliament, Community Head Man, CCC centre managers, youth groups and other community based organisations involved in the Ebola response in the communities have been established in each CCC community and they meet weekly. We have reached out to 5,000 families through our social mobilization efforts in Western Area.
ActionAid has already supported over 265,000 people affected by Ebola in Sierra Leone, through public education on Ebola prevention, providing sanitation supplies to health facilities, food and sanitary items to quarantined households and orphans, and education packs to children. But we will also be here for years to come, with our local partners helping communities, the survivors particularly women, to regain their jobs and go back into education, but also campaign for better health services in Sierra Leone. We will also work closely with communities make sure that they are better prepared for any future health crises.