The Ebola outbreak has affected more than 10,000 people in Liberia over the past two years, claiming almost 5,000 lives.
As part of Plan International’s two-year recovery strategy in the country, the organization is supporting the recovery process by providing hygiene kits for safe schools, training teachers on safe school protocols, and building resilient communities. Plan is also supporting communities with the construction of safe drinking water sources, as well as constructing three modern schools to benefit more than 3,000 students.
The aim is to rebuild community resilience and support communities affected by the outbreak to regain life. But there is still a long road ahead.
Having lost her husband and her son to the deadly disease, 25-year-old Ebola survivor Fatta Sheriff is still struggling to pick up the pieces. During the aftermath, she adopted four children who’d lost their parents to Ebola.
This is her story:
“Ebola is a difficult thing to talk about. Even though it is no more, whenever I think of the agony it inflicted on me and my family, it makes me feel like dying.
“In my community, the virus started with an older woman who died. Her family took the body to be buried, without conducting any tests. Within days of her family returning to the community, seven people fell sick. They all died.
“When the Ebola Treatment Unit team came to conduct tests on the bodies, they discovered the villagers had died from Ebola.”
“Our whole community was quarantined for 21 days. My husband contracted the virus first, then passed it on to our baby boy and me.
“They were both unfortunate, and I lost my beloved husband and son.
“In the aftermath, I was given $110 emergency cash by Plan International Liberia and the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee.
“With no source of income, I used the money to open a local restaurant to sell food and drinks. The little earnings from my business helped to pay my children’s school fees and buy food – but it’s still hard to make ends meet.
“My husband left me with two more children—a 9-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son, who are going to school with the help of a local nongovernmental organization. I also adopted four children who lost their families to Ebola. I can’t afford to send them to school, but at least they have a safe space to stay.”
Two Years On
“It’s been nearly two years since the first case of Ebola was confirmed in Liberia, but life is still tough and we are still suffering.
“The poverty we are experiencing now is worse than ever. The outbreak damaged the country’s infrastructure, especially the health and education sectors. Schools were closed for nearly six months. Hospitals were down.
“To be honest, Ebola has added a lot of suffering to Liberia, especially for me and my family. We live in rural Liberia. Our county is very poor with limited business opportunities and economic empowerment.
“Rice is Liberia’s staple food and this is all we have to eat every day.
“It is hard personally, too. I lost my husband and son to Ebola. My husband was very supportive. He was an engineer who constructed wells and drainages.
“Now he’s gone and life is worse than hell.”
“Recovery is a slow process. Everything physically stopped during the height of the Ebola crisis, and now, although the Ebola outbreak has declined considerably in Liberia, the negative impact is still being felt throughout the country.
“Our community is starting to pick up little by little and I am hoping more NGO-led projects will reach us soon. I want my children to go back to school so they can learn.
“We are still working with Plan and other NGOs to raise awareness on Ebola through the use of community radios. We use our megaphones to educate our peers on Ebola and importance of education. Flyers are printed with Ebola messages and we take them around the community – as we don’t want Ebola to return.
“I am hoping to start a bigger and better business venture with the hope the profits will help me pay my children’s school fees, buy property, and build our dream house.
“This was the future plan for me and my husband before he died – and I have to see it through.”