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16th March 2015

I survived Ebola’

Survivors say early detection and treatment can help beat Ebola and conquer stigma

The death toll from the ongoing Ebola outbreak is heading for 11,000. That’s 11,000 people – 11,000 family stories of heartbreak and horror, thousands of children orphaned by a deadly disease.

But amid the daily headlines of death and fear, there are survivors. Until now, their stories went untold but a new campaign – #ISurvivedEbola – is working to change that.

A Pillar of Strength and Support for Fellow Ebola Victims: Fanta’s Story of Survival and Solidarity from #ISurvivedEbola on Vimeo.

 

Run by PCI Media Impact with support from UNICEF and funding from Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, the campaign gives survivors a chance to share their experiences through an app that allows them to post their thoughts, photos and videos.

The stories are unique but reveal common threads. Those sharing their testimonies were typically infected by a family member – many have lost parents, siblings, cousins and friends.

Mother of Many: Ebola Survivor Decontee’s Mission to Help Children Touched by the Outbreak from #ISurvivedEbola on Vimeo.

 

They speak of the absence of healthcare and laboratory facilities at the time of the outbreak. Most knew little of the disease and it was often impossible to be tested for it.

Even now, with temporary clinics set up to help grapple with the epidemic, infrastructure is sorely lacking. There are too few beds and lab testing services can be lacking.

People with a cold or flu fear they have Ebola and struggle to get definitive answers to what can be a life or death question: do I have Ebola or is it the flu, measles or something else?

This left some facing weeks of uncertainty and stigma while they awaited the all-clear. Others were sent to Ebola treatment centres – where they were at risk of contracting the disease – only to later find that they were not infected.

For women like Aminita, a university student from Sierra Leone, early diagnosis and treatment were the key to survival.

“I survived because of early treatment. I was detected early so I started treatment at the hospital early which is the secret to my survival.”

Aminita had contracted Ebola from her aunt and passed it to her mother. Sadly, receiving her negative Ebola test results – meaning she had beaten the disease – was a bittersweet moment as her mother, aunt and several members of her family had not survived.

Watch more Ebola survivor stories.