IMPACT

Ebola Survivors Are Feared, Even Though They're Instrumental In Stopping The Disease

PAYNESVILLE, LIBERIA - OCTOBER 16:  Ebola survivor Victoria Masah, 28, stands  in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without
PAYNESVILLE, LIBERIA - OCTOBER 16: Ebola survivor Victoria Masah, 28, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Ebola treatment center on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. She said her husband and two children died of Ebola. The virus has a 70 percent mortality rate, according to the World Health Organization, but leaves survivors immune to the strain that sickened them. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

In Sierra Leone, 76 percent of households said they would not welcome someone who was infected with Ebola back into their community -- even if that person has recovered -- according to a UNICEF study.

Those survivors being discriminated against, however, could be impactful players in stopping the epidemic and caring for those who are infected -- particularly children.

As Reuters reported last week, survivors can play vital roles on the frontline of the epidemic because of their built-in immunity to the disease, Sierra Leone officials said. Ebola survivors -- "who can provide [infected] children with the love, care and attention they so badly need," according to UNICEF's Roeland Monasch -- can alleviate parents and care workers wanting to aid ailing loved ones, but also hesitant to put themselves at risk of contracting Ebola.

Alhaji Moijue Kaikai, Sierra Leone's social welfare minister, is one of the voices advocating to put an end to the stigma and utilize survivors in combating the epidemic.

"People who have survived Ebola give hope to others who are still fighting the disease," he said last Thursday, according to Reuters. "We need to accept survivors and welcome them back to our families and our communities."

Regional efforts have begun following the minister's wishes.

As a means of both ending the stigma and helping survivors deal with the psychological aftermath of the disease, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs -- with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF -- has organized a series of gatherings over the next several months uniting Ebola survivors to share their experiences and discuss ways of helping infected community members. The first meeting brought together 35 survivors in Kenema, a hard-hit city in Sierra Leone, last week, according to UNICEF.

The World Health Organization (WHO) -- which announced on Tuesday it hopes to test two experimental versions of an Ebola vaccine as early as January, the Associated Press reported -- has tallied more than 4,500 deaths since the outbreak began roughly 10 months ago, mostly in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. On Oct. 14, the organization claimed there could be 10,000 new cases of the disease per week in about two months, if global leaders fail to improve the dire situation.

Support UNICEF's efforts to combat Ebola through the fundraising widget below.

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BEFORE YOU GO

  • James and Tamah Mulbah
    Ebola survivor James Mulbah, 2, stands with his mother, Tamah Mulbah, 28, who also recovered from Ebola in the low-risk secti
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor James Mulbah, 2, stands with his mother, Tamah Mulbah, 28, who also recovered from Ebola in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center, after a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia.
  • Benetha Coleman
    Ebola survivor Benetha Coleman, 24, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center afte
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Benetha Coleman, 24, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after attending a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. She said that her husband and two children died due to the disease.
  • Jeremra Cooper
    Ebola survivor Jeremra Cooper, 16, wipes his face from the heat while in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Jeremra Cooper, 16, wipes his face from the heat while in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The 8th grade student said he lost six family members to the Ebola epidemic before coming down sick with the disease himself and being sent to the MSF center, where he recovered after one month.
  • Zaizay Mulbah and Mark Jerry
    Ebola survivors Zaizay Mulbah, 34, and Mark Jerry, 30, right, stand together before their shifts as nurse's assistants at the
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivors Zaizay Mulbah, 34, and Mark Jerry, 30, right, stand together before their shifts as nurse's assistants at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. Jerry was a money changer and Mulbah a delivery driver before they caught the disease and went to the center, where they recovered. Doctors Without Borders hired them afterward to counsel and comfort others stricken by the disease.
  • Eric Forkpa
    Ebola survivor Eric Forkpa, 23, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after me
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Eric Forkpa, 23, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after meeting with fellow survivors on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The college student, who is majoring in civil engineering, said he thinks he caught Ebola while caring for his sick uncle, who died of the disease. He spent 18 days at the center recovering from the virus.
  • Emanuel Jolo
    Ebola survivor Emanuel Jolo, 19, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after a
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Emanuel Jolo, 19, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center after a survivors' meeting on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. The high school student lost six family members and believes he caught the disease while washing the body of his father, who died of Ebola.
  • Sontay Massaley
    Ebola survivor Sontay Massaley, 37, smiles upon her release from the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Octobe
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Sontay Massaley, 37, smiles upon her release from the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. Massaley, who spent 8 days recovering from the disease in the center, said she worked as a vendor in a market before contracting the virus.
  • Victoria Masah
    Ebola survivor Victoria Masah, 28, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on Oc
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Victoria Masah, 28, stands in the low-risk section of the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 16, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. She said her husband and two children died of Ebola.
  • Abrahim Quota
    Ebola survivor Abrahim Quota, 5, stands outside the JFK Ebola treatment center after recovering from the disease on October 1
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Abrahim Quota, 5, stands outside the JFK Ebola treatment center after recovering from the disease on October 13, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. He had arrived at the treatment center 10 days before with his parents, who both died there from the virus. The Ministry of Health was to deliver him home after his release to live with relatives.
  • Lassana Jabeteh
    Ebola survivor Lassana Jabeteh, 36, smiles before his shift as a nurse's assistant at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treat
    John Moore via Getty Images
    Ebola survivor Lassana Jabeteh, 36, smiles before his shift as a nurse's assistant at the Doctors Without Borders Ebola treatment center on October 12, 2014 in Paynesville, Liberia. He said that he previously worked as a taxi driver and that he thinks he caught Ebola when he transported a sick policeman who vomited in his car on the way to the hospital. Doctors Without Borders hired Jabeteh after he recovered in their treatment center and he now counsels and comforts others stricken by the disease.
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