“I asked God, why you make me to survive?” An Ebola survivor’s struggle to recover from devastating loss

تم النشر: 8 أبريل 2016 8:30 CET

By: Katherine Mueller, IFRC 

“I lost my father, my mother, my stepmother. I lost nine relatives, including my husband,” says Aisha Kamara, a nurse at the government hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone who remarkably managed to survive Ebola, even after having treated her sick father. 

Nine family members. Just like that. Gone. “Ebola just came and destroyed all our families,” says Aisha, whose story rings true for many families across Sierra Leone. Now, with the outbreak over (Sierra Leone reported two flare-up cases in January after the outbreak was declared over in November 2015), these families must somehow pick up the pieces and figure out a new normal. 

Aisha’s new reality includes caring, not just for her own daughter, but for her sister’s four daughters. The youngest one is 3, the eldest, 13. She receives some support but essentially cares for them alone. “I get some food and money to cover school fees, but how long will that support last?” worries Aisha. “The job that I am doing, the money is small. It is not enough. It is not really enough to take care of them.”

This 32-year-old now single mother of five also has her own demons to battle. She was the first nurse at the government hospital in Kenema to survive Ebola at a time when the facility was a death trap and colleagues were dying all around her. She questions why she was chosen to survive, given the challenges that she has faced since being discharged. “I went to the bank to take my salary to buy some food. They rejected me. I went to pierce my ear, they rejected my money. When I went back to work, I was alone. Nobody was sitting with me. Nobody talked to me. The place I normally go for prayer, when I went there, all of them go off. They leave me alone,” Aisha states, listing example after example of the stigmatization she has endured. “I asked God, why you make me to survive?”

A lifeline offered

With the support of friends who encouraged her to stay strong, and an offer from the Red Cross to help other Ebola sufferers, Aisha rejoined life. “The Red Cross asked me to come and work at the treatment centre in Kenema,” she explains. “As a survivor, I knew more about the signs and symptoms of Ebola. It was not easy for me to contract the disease. I could work with the children in the kindergarten and keep a watch out for any of them presenting symptoms.”

The job offer worked. Aisha again found her passion for caring for those who are ill. With the outbreak now over and the treatment centre demolished, she has returned to the government hospital. “For now, I am happy because Ebola, it has come to an end, and I am living with my younger ones. Though it is not easy, but the Lord is providing. I just have to have some hope. I’m asking God not to let my efforts go in vain.”

In Sierra Leone, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) recovery plan of 44 million Swiss francs focuses on providing support to people affected by the outbreak, and includes activities related to strengthening resilience to future disease outbreaks, improving access to health care and psychosocial support, improving food security and livelihoods; and National Society development. The recovery plan is currently 1 per cent funded.

During the Ebola emergency, traditional healers played a crucial role in halting the spread of the virus, instructing patients to first visit hospitals. Now, with cases at a minimum, traditional healers find those same patients are now preferring modern medicine over traditional cures. Watch for that story 11 April.