Sierra Leone

Ebola survivors stand tall in Sierra Leone

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Rosarr, Sierra Leone - In her small, rural village, 18-year-old Isatu Sesay has fought through tragedy to support herself and her two younger brothers.

Struck down with fever, aches and the cruel advance of Ebola, her father fell first, as the epidemic peaked in December 2014.

“My mother took care of him. Then she died too, leaving the three of us, me and my brothers, Salifu Conteh and Mohamed Conteh,” she said.

Immediately after her father’s death, a suited fumigation team sterilized her home.

“They pulled out the bed and burned it,” she said. “They sprayed chlorine, took out my father’s clothes and burned them too.”

“Everything he ever used or touched, they burned.”

Hundreds of mud houses across Sierra Leone were razed after victims perished in them, in an attempt to stamp out the disease.

But with brick walls and a corrugated iron roof, luckily, Isatu’s house still stands, although most rooms were emptied in the decontamination process.

Her uncle helped at first, giving what little money he could. Isatu spent some on ingredients for doughnuts, which she sold to the community.

Then a distribution team from the Ministry of Social Welfare with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other organisations gave her a little money to boost her fledgling business, along with food, kitchen utensils, soap, clothes and fresh bedding.

“When the distribution team came, I was happy and I felt fine, because we got so many things we wanted,” she said.

“With more money, I started selling onions, rice and other things to cook.”

UNDP and partners have given emergency supplies to over 300 Ebola survivors, bereaved families and orphans across Sierra Leone so far. But as the epidemic fades, the focus is turning towards long-term recovery.

“The loss of breadwinners, limits on business and movement, fear and stigma have shattered thousands of livelihoods,” said Sudipto Mukerjee, UNDP’s Country Director in Sierra Leone.

“The world must stay the course in supporting Sierra Leone to protect fragile development and peace-building gains,” he added.

Sierra Leone is set to launch its recovery plan shortly. It is expected to focus on getting to, and maintaining zero Ebola cases, tackling immediate priorities and transitioning into the Agenda for Prosperity, the country’s longer-term national development plan.

To support the government, UNDP is working on its own recovery plan. The 18 month programme is set to strengthen the government’s capacity to coordinate the recovery efforts, control Ebola outbreaks, address the socio-economic impact of the disease and build the resilience of affected communities.

UNDP leads the UN’s support for recovery in all three of the countries hardest-hit by Ebola: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.