“They accused me of selling my son.” The father of an Ebola victim speaks out

Publicado: 24 octubre 2014 17:39 CET

By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC

Saa Mamadi Ceno is the president of the Red Cross branch in Gueckedou, in southern Guinea, the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak. Since the virus surfaced in his area, many people have died, including some relatives. In an attempt to bend the curve of this epidemic, Saa Mamadi multiplies his sensitization activities. Every day, with the help of hundreds of volunteers from the Red Cross Society of Guinea, he visits many villages scattered in the dense forest of Gueckedou to disseminate life-saving information to communities. His stoicism, however, hides real suffering.

“Ebola has killed my son,” he says in a voice full of emotion. “He was only 25 and too young to die.”

It was in June when his son, who worked as a motorcycle taxi driver, contracted the virus, after unknowingly carrying a woman who suffered from Ebola. The woman vomited on him twice en route. She died two days after her transfer to the treatment centre of Gueckedou.

A few days later, Saa Mamadi’s son got sick with persistent pain, diarrhoea and profuse vomiting. Recognizing the early signs of Ebola, the concerned father rushed his ailing son to the hospital, ensuring he took the proper precautions to protect himself.

The Ebola test was positive. Two days after his admission, he died, leaving behind a wife and two small children, taken care of now by Saa Mamadi.

Because of his close contact with his son, Saa Mamadi and his family were placed under surveillance during the incubation period of 21 days.

“People shunned me. Some of them even refused to talk to me over the phone. Hurtful rumours spread around villages saying that I have sold my son to humanitarian organizations for 70 million Guinean francs (10,000 US dollars). When my wife went to the market, some people refused to sell to her. Each time she came back home crying,” explains Saa Mamadi.

Without the support of the Red Cross Society of Guinea, Saa Mamadi and his family would not have recovered from the stigma they faced.

“The Red Cross Society of Guinea has supported us a lot during this difficult time by providing us with food and money. The President called me on a regular basis to cheer me up. That really helped me,” says Saa Mamadi, relieved that neither he nor his family tested positive after the end of the incubation period.

“Ebola is not a curse or witchcraft. I am a son of the soil and I will never conspire against you,” stressed Saa Mamadi during a sensitization activity in Kolebengo, one of the most resistant villages. “If the disease was brought by aid workers, I would not lose my son because I am also an aid worker.”

Since the death of his son, Saa Mamadi is better listened to by the people and answers any questions they might have. “Generally, they want to know how the disease is spreading and how they could protect themselves.

“I’m fighting against the disease so other parents will not lose their children who must build our region and our country in the future.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal to support 11 million people in Guinea, potentially affected by the Ebola outbreak. Activities focus on raising awareness in communities, dead body management, tracing those who may have come into contact with an infected person, and psychosocial support.