Plan International Sierra Leone has responded throughout the Ebola crisis, and is particularly present in Kailahun District, one of the worst affected Ebola areas of Sierra Leone. Here, an estimated 56 children have been orphaned since the outbreak started on 26th May 2014.
What makes this outbreak unique though is the increasing number of survivors. Amara, 17, is a reminder of hope and survival in a deeply tragic situation facing children during the Ebola outbreak. He lived with a relative at Segbewma where he used to attend secondary school. It was from there that he got infected with the virus, fell ill and travelled to his parents and subsequently infected all of them. He is from a family of 6 and his parents are farmers who eek out a living from the sale of agricultural products such as rice.
Amara said: “I got infected with Ebola in the quest of supporting my friend’s mother who arrived in Segbwema complaining of fever and abdominal pain. I accompanied the woman to the local hospital in June 2014. There was no suspicion that the woman was infected with Ebola but 3 days after the woman died, I started experiencing severe headache and slight fever.”
Amara travelled to his parents in Bunumbu, and word quickly spread around the community that a sick person with Ebola symptoms was being kept at home.
“Our house was isolated by other community members even before the arrival of the medical team,” said Amara.
When he finally achieved a negative test result, he was discharged, and his younger brother recovered and was also discharged.
“When we returned to our village, some of my relatives and friends avoided me, but it is now getting better. People don’t believe that I had Ebola, because they can’t believe I survived.”
Plan International Sierra Leone is working with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other health partners to provide support to the Ebola response through the supply of disinfectants, hygiene promotion through hand-washing materials, posters and information booklets, and supporting social mobilization and communication efforts in Amara’s village to ensure that people are correctly informed.
Through our partners, we are reaching out to markets, mosques, churches, schools, radio and the television providing information on Ebola to enable health workers and regular people to find the knowledge to protect themselves and their children.
Amara and his brother are currently cared for by their elder sister and other extended family members. They are looking forward to starting school, hoping that they will be supported by relatives and other well wishers.
In collaboration with the government, Plan International is undertaking an assessment to find out the situation of children orphaned from Ebola, with the aim of providing them with assistance to return to school and re-settle in the community.