- as Ebola survivors voice concern over stigma
May 27, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
An Ebola survivor, Haja Fatmata Kargbo, has urged community leaders and the general populace to respect their position in society and to fight against stigmatization and discrimination against them.
Kargbo made the plea during commemoration of the one-year anniversary since the deadly Ebola viral disease broke out in Sierra Leone killing thousands of people mainly within the three Mano River Union countries.
The ceremony was organized by the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society (SLRCS) at Radisson Blu Hotel, Aberdeen as part of the commitment of the humanitarian group in the fight against Ebola.
Kargbo lamented that she lost her entire family including her husband to the deadly Ebola disease, and that SLRCS officers played a significant role in ensuring that a good number of them are alive today, as their continued efforts in fighting the disease – especially in the Kenema and Kono Ebola treatment centers – have been enormous.
“I was taken to the Kenema treatment center with no hope because two of my children, co-wife and our husband had all died from the Ebola. However, I am pleased that I am alive today with other family members – that is, the Sierra Leone Red Cross family. They have been doing their best to keep us going since we were discharged from the Kenema treatment centre. I want to urge community people and leaders to avoid stigmatization and discrimination against Ebola survivors,” she said.
In his statement, head of the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), Moulaye Camara, said the past one year has been a time of great sadness for many as the virus wreaked havoc upon communities and overwhelmed the national health services.
He said Sierra Leone has come a long way especially with the support from its national and international partners and the resilience of its people in the fight against the deadly disease, noting that though the tide is turning against the disease, yet it is now important that all efforts are made to ensure the disease comes to an end.
Camara further noted that the last mile towards zero infection is perhaps the most difficult step, or the so-called bumpy road, which leaves no space for complacency or the relaxing of efforts.
“Treatment centers are only one part of the intervention alongside safe and dignified burials, contact tracing, psychosocial support and educating communities,” he said. “Complacency could lead to unnecessary deaths. We need to do our utmost to get zero infections, zero patients, and zero burials. This Ebola outbreak is not over [yet]. As long as one of the three main affected countries reports new confirmed cases, all are at risk.”
SLRCS former president, Dr. Mohamed Jalloh, said May 25 is significant in the history of Sierra Leone and that special attention should be given to the country’s health sector to swiftly react to any outbreak in future.
He said the youth have been very instrumental in the fight against the virus as they were used as burial teams, contract tracers and messengers in various communities across the country.
“We don’t need to be complacent, Ebola is still with us, we must take to medical advice,” he warned.
The ceremony was climaxed by a play that depicts the role of communities in ensuring that Ebola survivors are reconciled with their people without any blemish.