Liberia: How Ebola Changed Three Women’s Lives

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa infected more than 28,600 people and killed at least 11,315. After the World Health Organization said Ebola is no longer an emergency of international concern, Kate Thomas asked three Liberian women how the crisis impacted their lives.

Written by Katherina Thomas Published on Read time Approx. 4 minutes

Finda Fallah, 30, lost seven members of her immediate family to Ebola, including her husband and five children. After surviving the disease herself, she now works for the Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (PREVAIL) Ebola survivor study, in Monrovia.

At first, during the Ebola time, me and my people were all right. We were getting our food to eat and nothing was giving us a hard time in life. You know the way some people can be just sitting down like they are useless? We were not like that, no. Me and my husband were feeding our people. Then my mother died and my husband got sick, and the trouble started from there. I lost five of my children.

I survived. I survived everything. The way Ebola disables some people, it didn’t disable me. At first it was hard to get my daily bread. Some NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) helped us, giving us small contributions to buy food. One NGO gave me a supply of flip-flops to sell at the market, so I would have a small job. The children who survived were stigmatized a little bit. My niece lost some of her hair, and other children laughed at her. But now the stigma is going down. I see some good things now. I’ve got a job working for PREVAIL, the Ebola survivor study, and I have a boyfriend. But I’m still not really happy again. Sometimes I feel this living is too heavy for me. I cry a lot. “What happened, Ma? Why are you crying again today?” the children ask me. I still have not forgotten about this Ebola, and what it did to me and my family.

Mamie Bowah, 35, fostered two Ebola orphans during the crisis, after a neighboring couple died from the disease. She now takes care of six children in her Monrovia home, including her four biological children.

Ebola did not infect me, but I saw many of my neighbors and friends get sick and later die from it. I felt lucky to have escaped it. After the outbreak was over, I thought about trying to find a job and earn some money for my family. But it was already hard for me to do that with my four children. My boyfriend and I broke up before the Ebola crisis hit, so often I am alone caring for the children. Sometimes other family members come around, though.

I was approached by a community group for Ebola survivors. They asked me if I would take in two children whose parents had died. At first I wasn’t sure, but then I was told that I would receive money to care for them and send them to school. I agreed. It has been much harder than I expected. The children are sad a lot; they miss their parents. I try my best, I am really trying, but I am not their mother and sometimes they get vexed with me. I am no longer receiving money for them, so I just have to try hard to make sure they have enough for food and school. Ebola has given me this challenge, and I just have to feel encouraged.

Miatta Broh, 60, works as a street cleaner. She lives in West Point, Monrovia’s most densely populated community. During the early days of the Ebola outbreak, the area was placed under quarantine by the Liberian government, and Broh was unable to go to work. She has now returned to her job.

I was not working during the Ebola time. They stopped everybody from working. Everybody was indoors. At one point, the only roads into West Point were closed. I’m a street cleaner, working outside West Point, but I couldn’t go out to work because the road was closed. Everybody was inside; there was no way to go outside and get food.

When they opened West Point, people started bringing foods in. The World Food Programme (WFP) started sharing rice, oil, soap, and other foodstuffs. Some people got luncheon meat – but not me. Some people were lucky and got one bag of rice for five persons. This was for one month. I was not angry against the government during the Ebola time, but I became angry when they quarantined West Point. Our happiness came when they opened the road and the WFP started bringing food. My husband and I were always in the house.

Ebola was a hard time in my life. But actually, I’ve been through harder things. My first husband was killed during the Liberian civil war. Then sea erosion in West Point took away the house I had saved my whole life to buy. I had 12 children, but I lost 11 of them – they died, from different causes. None of them died from Ebola. The loss of my children was the hardest thing to bear, but God gave me the strength to get through it.

Now that Ebola is over, I’ve gone back to work, sweeping the street. I work for a private sanitation company. I always leave home at six o’clock in the morning and return at 10 o’clock. I then go back again to work at three o’clock in the afternoon. I work every day including Sunday. My salary is US$90 per month – the same as it was before. My life is still similar to how it was. But I am even stronger.

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