Getting back to normal after Ebola strikes

More than 1,100 psychologists and psychosocial workers trained by UNICEF support Ebola survivors with their reintegration into their communities.

Chrispin Mulomba (translated from French by Lorraine Valarino)
C’est à bras ouverts, sourire aux lèvres et les yeux pétillants que la femme et les deux petites filles de Timothée attendaient son retour à la maison.
15 March 2020

Mambasa, Democratic Republic of Congo – Friday 17th January 2020 is a day that will remain engraved in Timothée Kasereka Siyawite’s memory forever. After having spent two weeks in the Ebola Treatment Centre in Mambasa, Timothée was declared cured along with three other patients. It was with cheers, cries and singing that the four survivors left the Ebola Treatment Centre.

“It all started the day of my daughter’s birthday”, recalls Timothée who had headaches, chills and was vomiting blood. Panic stricken, not recognizing the symptoms of Ebola, the family man went to his Traditional healer. “He advised me to alert the response teams”, continues Timothée who did not really believe in the existence of the disease. In his neighbourhood many people were opposed to the response teams, convinced that Ebola was nothing more than a made up money-making scheme.

Once the diagnosis had been confirmed, doctors, nurses and nutrionists took turns to be with Timothée who was very concerned. “I had a negative perception of the disease”, admits Timothée. After two weeks in care, Timothée was declared cured and discharged from the Treatment Centre.

All the nursing staff and the community members gathered at the Treatment Centre to support Timothée and the other three survivors of the disease. “It didn’t really sink in that I was alive and that I could live my life alongside the people I love and who love me”, confided Timothée. The UNICEF psychosocial workers and communicators accompanied Timothée all the way to his own neighbourhood.

Timothée’s wife and two young daughters were waiting for his return home with open arms, smiles on their faces and twinkling eyes. “I sincerely praise the professionalism of the team at the Treatment Centre, they have allowed me to see my family again”, says Timothée relieved to see his loved ones again.

Today, the psychosocial workers continue to support Timothée and his family in daily living. The family man, who has resumed his job, does not hesitate for a moment to share his experience with those around him. “Ebola really exists and I personally have been a victim”, says Timothée repeatedly, he encourages people to respect all hygiene measures and seek help as soon as symptoms appear.

Since the beginning of the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country the UNICEF supported teams, providing psychosocial care and follow-up support, have helped more than 22,000 families affected by the disease.

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