News / Africa

Ebola Victims Face Stigma in West Africa

FILE - UNICEF health workers teach people about the Ebola virus and how to prevent infection, in Conakry, Guinea, March 31, 2014..
FILE - UNICEF health workers teach people about the Ebola virus and how to prevent infection, in Conakry, Guinea, March 31, 2014..
Jennifer Lazuta
As medical experts work to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, survivors and their families say they are being stigmatized.  While some people are welcomed back into their communities after they recover, many are shunned due to fear of contagion.  Health workers say education is key.

Family and friends gathered in Lofa County, Liberia, last week to welcome home 48-year-old Joseph Taylor, who was falsely suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus.  Taylor’s wife died earlier this month after contracting the disease from her sister.

“People wanted to stone me, but I said I will fight this and I will make it.  So today, I am happy that I am among you again.  You can be around me.  You are my friends.  I forgive everybody,” said Taylor.

Liberia’s Ministry of Health presented Taylor and his family with a medical certificate at a community ceremony, confirming that he is Ebola-free so he will not be shunned by the community.

There have been at least 34 suspected cases of Ebola in Liberia.  More than 135 people have died in neighboring Guinea, where the virus first broke out in February.

Liberia’s chief medical officer, Dr. Bernice Dahn, said discrimination of Ebola survivors has been a serious challenge. “What happened to him [Mr. Taylor] has happened to many others, in other communities.  Today we can know, we can all know, that people who come in contact with infected people can actually be safe.  They can live in the community again and go about their normal duty,” she said.

The World Health Organization said while Ebola is one of the most contagious viral infections, it is actually quite difficult to catch.  The virus can only be transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is exhibiting symptoms.

But many people, such as Mariam Camara, a market vendor in Conakry, said they are reluctant to associate with anyone who has been or may be infected.

She said, “At first they told us it was not a curable disease.  Then, after some time, we also learned that there are people who are cured of it.  But me personally, when there are people that are cured, I am still scared.”  She said, “It truly frightens me.  A sickness that kills people indiscriminately, without a cure - that is not reassuring in my opinion.  So I am frightened.”

Earlier this month, a hospital in Conakry, where three people died from Ebola, was forced to shut down because people were too afraid to enter the building.

Guinea’s Ministry of Health has stopped naming the neighborhoods where suspected cases occur, due to ongoing fear and stigmatization.

Timothy La Rose is a spokesperson for the United Nations Children's Fund, which has been working on educating communities about the reality of Ebola.  He spoke to VOA from Conakry. 

“One of the first steps UNICEF took in the response to Ebola was to get the correct information out directly to the people, especially in the affected areas.  So we have been daily visiting mosques, churches, schools ... going door to door, going on the radio, distributing leaflets and information, so that people understand Ebola, and they understand how it transfers and how it spreads, and how it does not,” he said.

La Rose said that in addition to community sensitization programs, UNICEF has been giving soap and chlorine to households and health facilities in the affected areas in order to protect people and to help break the transmission chain of the virus.

Health workers in both Guinea and Liberia say they are encouraging people to welcome survivors of Ebola back into their communities and to offer them their support.

Prince Collins contributed to this report from Monrovia, and Zakaria Camara contributed to it from Conakry.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid