Surviving Ebola: A Resilient and Hopeful Future for Liberia

By: Blanca Lomeli

This September, I returned to Liberia to see the progress of our Ebola Response programs and provide support to our health systems strengthening interventions. On this trip, I met Fatu Wyny, a young woman who works at our Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Ganta, Liberia. She shared how Ebola impacted her life and why it inspired her to join our Ebola Response team.

In September 2014, Fatu’s father got sick. She took care of him, but as his symptoms worsened, he was sent to a hospital. Fatu learned that her father was sick with Ebola.

Two weeks later, Fatu (pictured above) developed the same symptoms as her father. But this time, she knew what to do. She immediately called the County Health Team and they took her to an Ebola Treatment Unit, where she received care and symptomatic treatment. Fatu survived, because she recognized her symptoms and accessed treatment early.

Like many Ebola survivors, family and neighbors were afraid of Fatu and avoided her when she returned home. Staff from our ETU accompanied her during her return to help with integration, and educated family and community members about Ebola. Fatu’s family and neighbors eventually learned that it was safe to be around her.

Her experience with Ebola motivated her to become part of PCI’s community outreach team. Fatu is helping others understand Ebola and trust that a cure is possible. She uses pictures of her stay in an ETU to tell her story.

“They don’t know Ebola, I do. So I show them how bad it can get, but that you can also survive,” she said.

Fatu and her team members raise awareness in communities about the symptoms of Ebola, educate community elders, and organize community discussions about Ebola prevention. They perform dramatizations, demonstrate how to prepare water and how to wash hands properly. They also educate people about other infectious diseases, emphasizing the importance of prevention and early detection.

Fatu gives people hope. She encourages people to trust the healthcare system. Through her experience, people see that the Ebola is real, but more importantly, that survival is possible.

As part of our response to Ebola, PCI managed one ETU and three Community Care Centers, a community outreach/education program, and a program to address hunger for families and communities affected by Ebola. Our ETU was the only one in the country staffed fully by professionals from Liberia, like Fatu. All these activities contributed to strengthening the capacity of Liberians to address, respond and prevent future outbreaks. What they have gained in knowledge, skills and capacity to respond will stay with them forever.

Learn more about our Ebola Response programming in Liberia.

Blanca Lomeli is a Senior Technical Advisor, Local Capacity Strengthening for PCI.