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Dublin: 19 °C Sunday 19 August, 2018
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The faces of Ebola: The survivors, orphans and workers the disease left behind

The outbreak is not yet over, doctors have warned.

LIBERIA RELEASED ITS last Ebola patient this week, with Médicins San Frontieres deeming it an “encouraging sign” for the country.

However, the doctors’ group warned that there is no room for complacency because there are still cases being discovered in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ciara Jordan, an Irish-based worker with Goal, took a trip to Sierra Leone recently to meet the people most affected by the outbreak.

The Survivor

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Rugiatu Kaigbo is an Ebola survivor. Both her husband and brother died from the disease. Rugiatu’s small fishing community, near Freetown, lost 130 people altogether. Her home was quarantined for 42 days during which she relied on the generosity of neighbours to feed her family.

The Aid Worker

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“I still don’t get used to how hot it is inside the ETC wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment),” says Ammar Fuwzi at the Goal Ebola Treatment Centre in Port Loko. “We try to get most of our work done when it is still cool outside- it can be almost impossible at mid-day. Most days are difficult but there are occasional days of happiness. When a patient is discharged we have a little celebration with a drum and dancing, they are great days.”

The Local

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“There is so much sadness and need in communities all over Sierra Leone. So many have fled their homes for fear of Ebola. It will be a long road to recovery – many had little before contracting the disease, now they have nothing.” – Victor Gbegba, Goal’s integration officer.

The Nurse

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“The hardest day working in the Ebola Treatment Centre was when two of the national staff passed out at the same time from heat exhaustion in the red zone,” recalls head nurse Rochelle Martin.

“It was also really difficult when a baby that the staff were quite attached to passed away from Ebola. It can be difficult working in the Ebola treatment centre but I love my job and we have a great team.”

The Bereaved

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“We are struggling to survive,” says Jaretta, who lives in the Freetown Slums. “It was very difficult to lose so many in such a short time.”

Within three weeks, 13 people in her family died. The head of the household, Bobo, contracted Ebola and the family cared for him. Their small house with four rooms has 15 people living in it. The cluster of houses in their community was quarantined for 64 days.

The Childminder

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“The children who come here have come into contact with Ebola, usually their family member has contracted the disease. They are stigmatised by their community and have nowhere to go. The children have been through a lot prior to coming to this centre. We try to make them as comfortable as possible during their 21 day stay.” – Phylis Nambiro, Observational and Interim Care Centre Manager, Kenema.

She works with children in the Kenema district and the Goal facility works on tracing families for children affected by Ebola while caring for them.

The Orphan

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James from Mount Aureol in Freetown, lost both his parents to Ebola. His two younger brothers contracted the disease and survived. James couldn’t visit his family while they were being treated.

“I was very worried and didn’t know what was happening. My father died on Christmas Eve and my mother died a few weeks later. I am glad my brothers are ok.”

James’ home was under quarantine and when his younger brothers were discharged they had no-where to go, they now live with their Aunt.

The Washer

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“I still get very bad headaches and my eyes are very sore. Sometimes this happens after the Ebola, there is nothing I can do about it.” Miatta from Kabba Lane in Kenema says.

Her brother contracted and died from Ebola. She washed her brother’s body with other women in her community in preparation for his funeral. All of the women who were involved in the burial died, except Miatta. She was discharged with her Ebola-free certificate in August 2014. GOAL worked with the Chief in Miatta’s village on practising safe burials and enforcing a no-touch policy to halt the spread of Ebola. The village has not had an Ebola case since September 2014.

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As the fight continues across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, MSF Director Jane-Ann McKenna said that there is no room for complacency as the number of new cases did rise this week.

“People move easily over the porous borders that separate Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, so we need a 42-day period to pass without a new case in any of the three worst affected countries for the outbreak to be over. The unpredictable nature of the epidemic and geographic spread means that we need to remain vigilant.

“There are serious gaps that persist in the response. Significant improvements need to be made in contact tracing and surveillance, and we still need to improve regional coordination.”

According to figures released this week by Plan Ireland, it is now exactly one year since the first confirmed outbreak.

In the last 12 months, an estimated 9,604 people have died, 23,729 cases have been identified and 16,600 children have been orphaned.

New problems are now cropping up across the region with many mothers experiencing a lack of maternal health services, a dearth of vaccinations and a reduction in farming.

Children have also fallen behind on their studies as schools are closed.

All images: Ciara Jordan

More: Baby Mamanie lost her parents and grandparents. But she’s considered “lucky”

WATCH: The aftermath of a teenager’s Ebola death

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