A baby of hope in the midst of the Ebola epidemic

After almost six months of battling the Ebola epidemic, the birth of baby Sylvana brings hope and courage to all the healthcare staff.

Cynthia Kanyere (translated from French by Darren Ou Yong)
Sylvana est le premier bébé né au centre de traitement Ebola de Beni
28 January 2019

Baby Sylvana was born in Beni, in the midst of the Ebola epidemic that has been ravaging the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since August 2018. Though all predictions were against her, Sylvana was born in excellent health.

Her mother, Joséphine, was infected when she was in the eighth month of her pregnancy. Already a mother of four children, Joséphine had to leave her village, situated around 100 kilometres from Beni, in order to be admitted into medical care. “It was difficult for me to leave my family and my children,” she recalls, conscious that only the care provided by the Ebola Treatment Centre could save her.

For almost two weeks, Joséphine was treated and isolated in order to avoid contaminating other people. After days of pain, doubt and uncertainty, the future mother’s health condition started to improve. Laboratory tests then finally confirmed that Joséphine had recovered.

Medical teams could now concentrate their efforts on preparing for the birth. Joséphine did not go too far from the Treatment Centre: she stayed at the neighbouring childcare centre, which was established by UNICEF to welcome infants and young children whose parents are being treated. Recovered from Ebola and thus immunised from the virus, Joséphine took care of the children at the childcare centre, giving them all the love they need.

Two weeks after being declared to have recovered, Joséphine started to feel the first contractions. During the birth, the baby ran the risk of being infected but thanks to the adapted treatment, Sylvana was born in excellent health.

“He is the first newborn to test negative, from a mother who tested positive during her pregnancy – a double win!” proudly declared the doctor who assisted with the birth. On this happy day, baby Sylvana became the little heroine of the treatment centre. She was pampered by everyone and it was even a midwife who gave her the name.

Joséphine, relieved to have given birth to a baby in good health, hopes to be able to leave Beni quickly to return to her home village. During the entire period of their treatment, Sylvana and her mother had assistance, food, and clothes from UNICEF. Though Joséphine was excited to present the little Sylvana to her father, her brothers and her sisters, she had to stay under observation for a few days.

“Together, Sylvana and her mother have vanquished the Ebola virus,” rejoice the healthcare staff at the Treatment Centre. “This encourages us to double our efforts to bring an end to this epidemic.”

UNICEF’s response to the Ebola epidemic is supported by the World Bank Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, the European Commission – European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, the Vaccine Alliance, the United States Agency for International Development, the Central Emergency Response Fund and the Government of Japan. UNICEF is also supported by the German Committee for UNICEF.