Tomilola Ajayi, who was working for Christian Aid in Sierra Leone when the Ebola outbreak began, reports on the challenges that survivors and communities face in rebuilding their lives.
Mabinti Mansaray lives in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. She beat Ebola but lost her mother and two daughters to the disease. Now, like many other Ebola survivors, she faces stigma and discrimination from her community.
Before the crisis hit, Mabinti (pictured above) was a street trader, selling food and other items. She is now unemployed. Widespread quarantines and movement restrictions have jeopardised many people’s livelihoods in Sierra Leone.
As well as having no income, Mabinti has hardly any belongings: everything in her quarantined home – clothes, furniture, documents – was burnt as part of infection control measures.
‘After my neighbours found out I had Ebola they abandoned me,’ she says. ‘They don't come near me anymore.’
Fellow survivor Geraldine Lamin, 17, also lost everything she owned. Her mother, father, sister and uncle all died
within a short space of time: ‘The whole month was full of tears,’ she says.
‘Before, life was good – I had loving parents and I was going to school; there was peace and joy at home. Now my brother, sister and I live alone and have to support ourselves. People are still scared of us… the stigma is still there.’
These stories are echoed across Sierra Leone, where more than 3,300 people have been killed and over 8,500 infected since the outbreak began in
May last year.
Mabinti and Geraldine are among hundreds of vulnerable people who have received food and household items – including mattresses, utensils and hygiene items – from Christian Aid. Funded by our Ebola Crisis Appeal, which has so far raised just under £1m, these kits are helping survivors and quarantined families in badly affected communities.
Our partners have also provided care for 100 orphans and trained 500 faith leaders to give trauma counselling and challenge the stigmatisation of survivors.
As the infection rate slows, we are also addressing the wider impacts of the outbreak.
Jeanne Kamara, Sierra Leone Country Manager, says: ‘The health crisis has caused enormous socio-economic challenges. That’s why Christian Aid is
helping Ebola survivors rebuild their livelihoods, focusing particularly on women and young people.
‘We have to ensure that HIV work and maternal and child healthcare are all prioritised, alongside issues arising from the long-term closure of schools, such as the rise in teen pregnancy. Meanwhile, foreign companies operating in Sierra Leone must begin to pay their fair share of tax, so that our government can invest much-needed funds to improve our broken health system.
‘The crisis is not yet over. We can’t be complacent: we will continue to encourage communities to follow Ebola prevention measures, so that the virus
can be eradicated once and for all.’
You can donate to or find out more about our Ebola Crisis Appeal here.