Sherrie Bangura is an Ebola survivor and founder of Rescue Team, a network of more than 90 Ebola survivors in Port Loko district, Sierra Leone. Photo courtesy of P. Desloovere, WHO.
The Rescue Team, an association set up by Ebola survivors to help fellow survivors trying to put their lives back together again, is now exploring ways to contribute to the Ebola outbreak response in Sierra Leone.
"How can I make a life when I have no hope? My future is blind," says Sherrie Bangura as he contemplated life after recovering from Ebola virus disease.
Back in October 2014, Bangura, 25, fell ill with Ebola virus disease after caring for his sister, who died from the disease. Twenty-four other people living in the same house contracted the virus and died. Only Bangura and two other people survived.
Before he fell ill, Bangura had lived with his uncle. But when he was discharged from the Ebola treatment center, Bangura found he was no longer welcome back in his own home. "I don’t want to remember the day my uncle told me to leave his house. He is the one who should have helped me, but he denied me instead," says Bangura, his voice shaking with emotion.
Sierra Leone now has more than 2,000 Ebola survivors, who are celebrated as heroes throughout the country. However, once back in the community many face the harsh reality of stigmatization.
Knowing what their fellow survivors might be suffering, Bangura and a few other survivors have created the Rescue Team, an association of Ebola survivors. "There are Ebola survivors who cannot advocate for themselves, and many of them cannot read or write. We created this association to advocate for all of us," he explains.
The Rescue Team has more than 90 members, many of them young adults from the Port Loko district, one of the current Ebola hot spots. Esther Ngegba, the WHO social mobilizer working in the district, says members of the Rescue Team can play an important part in strengthening community engagement in the district.
"Some communities are still doing unsafe burials. We are exploring how the Rescue Team survivors can become social mobilizers to help us to get to zero cases," says Ngegba. "Since they are from the community, they will be able to reach out to areas where others cannot go," she adds.