After Ebola: charity helps survivors find new hope

UNDP's David McLachlan-Karr and Christian Aid's Jeanne Kamara at the UNDP headquarters in Freetown.Ross McCarthy

Surviving Ebola in Sierra Leone is one thing – but people who recover are returning home from hospital to find all their possessions destroyed, according to Christian Aid.

The blow is hard to face for those who are still weak from their illness, and who may be coping with multiple bereavements as well.

They also face being isolated and stigmatised by their local communities, who still fear catching the disease from them.

Nearly 900 people in Sierra Leone have so far survived the illness. However, those who become infected have their belongings either burned or disinfected with concentrated chlorine, in order to eliminate any risk of transmission of the virus.

Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid country manager for Sierra Leone, said: "Those fortunate enough to have survived the Ebola virus are left with next to nothing. The joy of surviving the devastating virus is quickly overshadowed by the pain of having everything they own destroyed during the decontamination process.

"In addition to losing all their possessions, survivors and their families find themselves facing stigma in their communities and with little means of rebuilding their lives. Those living hand-to-mouth simply cannot afford to replace all their belongings – particularly in homes where the main breadwinner has died from the virus."

The charity has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to meet survivors' immediate needs and help them rebuild their lives.

The one-off programme will see UNDP 'solidarity kits' donated to 68 Ebola survivor households. The kits contain supplies to enable those discharged from treatment centres to start afresh. Kits include foam mattresses, kitchen utensils, crockery, shoes, fabric, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, female sanitary supplies and laundry powder, together with food items such as beans, sugar, oil, powdered milk, baby food and eggs.

The project is targeting deprived rural communities and the most vulnerable households, including homes with children under-five and homes with pregnant women or lactating mothers.