Ebola survivors are saving lives

As the Ebola outbreak continues to claim victims, the survivors mobilise to raise populations’ awareness.

Willy Mbemba (translated from Atholl Simpson)
 Dr Saiba, l’un des 163 agents de santé contaminés depuis le début de l’épidémie d’Ebola à l’est de la République Démocratique du Congo

07 November 2019

“If I hadn’t made the decision to go to the treatment centre despite the pressure from my family, I would be dead”, explains Dr Saiba, one of the 163 health care agents infected since the start of the Ebola outbreak in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

At the start of the Ebola outbreak, the community resistance hampered the efforts of health specialists. The disinformation, poisoning and false rumours prevented people from having any confidence in the efforts to fight Ebola and in particular with regards to patient care.

In November 2018 a young woman presenting with symptoms consistent with Ebola turned up at the hospital where he worked and categorically refused to be transferred to the Ebola treatment centre. As a result Dr Saiba and all his team mobilised to assure the patient that immediate medical care was needed. Despite the precautionary measures taken during their interactions, Dr Saiba contracted the disease and began developing symptoms several days later.

When he started to show the first symptoms of the disease, Dr Saiba faced an unexpected hurdle, his family and his closest friends refused to have him attend the treatment centre. Dr Saiba knew that his chances of survival were dependant on receiving medical care at the Ebola treatment centre. Despite his family’s refusal he went to the treatment centre and after several days under medical care, Dr Saiba left the Ebola treatment centre healed. “We are each responsible for our own lives, so don’t let others decide for you”, explained Dr Saiba who has allied himself with UNICEF in order to raise populations’ awareness. The sooner patients infected with the Ebola virus receive medical care, the better their chances of survival.

“I know the pain and suffering endured by Ebola patients”, Dr Saiba explains. Dr Saiba follows up by saying “treatment centres are not death-traps but specialised centres where you find doctors, nurses, nutritionists and hygienists who are well trained in order to save you”.

Since the start of the Ebola outbreak, UNICEF and its partners have raised the awareness of almost 30 million people in affected zones. The people are your best allies in the fight to defeat the Ebola virus.

“We can avoid death by respecting hygiene measures and going to medical care facilities as soon as possible”, concludes Dr Saiba who continues to repeat this message in schools, churches and village markets.

UNICEF’s response to the Ebola epidemic is supported by the World Bank, the European Commission – European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid OperationsGavi - 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, the World Bank Group’s Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, the United Kingdom and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.