Photo by Joffrey Monnier/MSF
Fatou (name changed) is an Ebola survivor. Her family was the first hit by Ebola in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. She spent two weeks inside the MSF Ebola treatment center before coming out cured and immunized. Fatou doesn’t want to have her face shown, as she fears rejection and discrimination. When she went home after isolation, her backyard, usually full of life, was completely empty. No one dared to go fetch water from the common well. Fatou remained cloistered in her home for several days before daring to come out. Thanks to the support of the MSF psychologists, she slowly learned to live again.
“People say, ‘It’s the Ebola backyard’. Nobody dares to come. Even when kids drop a ball in the backyard, no one comes to get it. When I got out, I learnt that my death had been announced in the students’ journal. I called my friends, they didn’t want to believe it was me, they were saying Fatou is dead. Some call me the living dead. People are very afraid of Ebola.” Today, she works for MSF as a health promoter. She welcomes the families who are coming to visit their sick relatives at the treatment center, but she doesn’t tell her own relatives that she works for MSF.
The critical need to change the attitudes and understanding of disease in the communities affected by Ebola is an aspect in this outbreak that’s easily overlooked but imperative to prevent it from spreading further and allowing these communities to heal.