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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid