I am Ibrahim Amara Kamara, and I work for a state institution that is responsible to register political parties regulate the affairs and conduct of political parties so as to ensure their compliance to the constitution and all other laws. I am also one of the founders of the Sierra Leone Association; this association is formed based on the back door for us to break the chain of transmission of the Ebola virus. We also have district vocal person which we normally communicate with other colleagues for us to continue to embark on voluntary exercise to break the chain of transmission and raise the awareness of people especially survivors to go to healthcare centres.
I am a Sierra Leonean by Nationality but because of the nature of my job I do not tell people from which region (north, south, east & west) I come from because I want to see myself as a full pledged Sierra Leonean wherein all Sierra Leone men and women are my brothers and sisters. In Sierra Leone the moment you attach yourself to a particular region the perception of people and what you want to achieve will be very much difficult. I am a Sierra Leonean.
The thing I like about my community is that the awareness level of the people has gradually increased. Like people normally say society is not static but dynamic and it gradually evolves over time. For the past decade the perception of the people had gradually changed and what I like most about my community (the black hall road) is the fact that they embrace survivors like me because they know a horrible illness has been inflicted in our country so whenever someone survives of Ebola , that person is seen as a hero. They will also encourage that individual to carry out his usual day to day activities before he/she got infected.
I have a beautiful wife and daughter but I lost a son to Ebola. I am very much happy with my nuclear family. I use to have an extended family that comprises of my parent aunts and uncles but now they are all dead. They are a blessed memory.
I was personally affected and infected with the Ebola virus and I am a survivor. I got the virus when taking care of my loved ones especially my son and dad. I first took my son and dad to the hospital where in my dad got diagnosed with diabetes and pressure not knowing that it was Ebola but I do not blame the doctors because Ebola is a strange disease that has inflicted our nation. Unknown to the doctors that it was Ebola I got close to my son and dad. One good thing about us Sierra Leoneans is we live in a closely neat society where everyone has passion for the other so when one person suffers we care for him/her. It was through passion, caring and love that I too got infected with Ebola.
I am still a Youth and Gender activist for the political parties’ registration commission. I still work and I receive corresponded from them but I am currently on sick leave but I will soon return to work because the offices miss me so much. I think I have been doing pretty well in raising awareness of people especially when it comes to elections, Governance and democracy. Also I have been advocating for women to actively participate in the Governance structures of their communities. My office and Youth group miss me so much and they are already yearning for my return. I love my job and pretty soon I will resume work.
After discharge from the Ebola centre, few of my fellow survivors whom we discharge together approached me and together we designed a good initiative wherein as survivors we should seek the welfare and dignity of other survivors. Some of us spent a lot to get proper medication after discharge for us to get fit again, so we shared our experiences and some claimed they have spent over $300 for them to be fit again. Those of us that are not rich have spent this sum to get back into the community, so what about those in the provinces/villages and those that are so poor that they cannot afford the resources. We as a team decided to come together and form the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES). The main objective of this SLAES is to promote and advocate for the dignity and welfare of Ebola survivors especially the very poor. Also to lobby to other organisations to come to their Aid and to ensure that survivors are aware of their responsibility in breaking the chain of transmission, survivors are aware of the support the Government and other institution should give them wherein they too should champion their own course to be properly re-integrated into society. This organisation is supported by the ministry of Welfare, Gender and children with no less the person by the Minister himself Honourable Mojeh Kaikai. He financially supported us to organize a national consultative meeting at the Hasting Treatment centre wherein we invited our fellow survivors from the 14 districts all over the country with the exception of Bonth district because they had no survivor. We all came together and drafted a constitution which was also endorsed by the ministry. We later encouraged our colleagues from various districts to volunteer to provide psycho social therapy with the little knowledge that we have because of the high level of stigmatization that is going on especially in the provinces. We also encouraged our survivors and district vocal persons to reach out and give hope that all is not lost. We also move in treatment centres with no support from anybody talking with patient that have not yet survived the virus and counsel them telling them that all is not lost. We encourage them to be prayer and try to be fit.
My family and friends appreciate my work so much though I am on sick leave but I have decided to embark on voluntary activities with my colleagues on the SLAES of Ebola survivors. They appreciate me so much because I am raising awareness for several people that are going through post Ebola complications; some are blind and are suffering from severe body pains so I normally advice my fellow Ebola survivors to contact health clinics. We have communicated our concerns through the ministry of social welfare that our fellow survivors are going through severe ordeals in life so the government has assured us that pretty soon they would establish survivor’s clinic in the entire district. We are raising awareness to other survivors advising them that whenever they feel health complications such as partial blindness, severe body pain and other complication they should go to healthcare centre with their discharge certificate to get assistance.
I am a Youth and gender activist but right now I am on sick leave. The stack holders that I work for know that even though I’m on sick leave I am playing a vital role to ensure that we stop enough transmission of the disease. There is an accusation that survivors are infecting non survivors, so we have engaged our fellow survivors that it is high time we adhere to the 90 days period given to us that we should not engage in any sexual intercourse or in the worst case scenario use a condom but even the use of condom is a challenge because we have a high illiteracy rate in our country and the level of understanding is very low. Most people do not even know how to use a condom or how to even dispose of it. Also most are adhering to the 90 days period and I personally is above 100 days but I am still afraid to get that close to my wife because I don’t know if the virus particle are still in my semen. We are advocating to the Government for a clinical research on our semen for us to have confident in ourselves and help protect others. We have engaged the minister of social welfare who is very much interested in salvaging survivors.
My job is very much important and I am doing my level best to raise the awareness in the communities about the dangers of Ebola. Most people have now recognised the fact that Ebola is real and most of them know the preventive precautions for them not to contact the disease. The role we are playing is very much good and we are doing this without financial support from anybody. We are embarking on a voluntary exercise and engaging the community in creating awareness for the eradication of Ebola.
Even though a large number of the community accepts us now there are still others who think because we have contacted the virus we are an outcast which is very challenging for us. As for me I would not allow anybody to stigmatize me but other survivors find it very difficult to counter these challenges. I do not allow people to stigmatize me because of my status, I know my right and I have played a great role in the society. I am not ashamed to tell people that I am an Ebola survivor but even when I do they do not believe me.
As a hero I was fighting and still fighting against the chain of transmission of the Ebola. Ebola has disrupted our normal ways of life and it has become a threat to our nation. The SLAES and the nation as a whole is fighting against Ebola.
I have heard news that some has survived the virus before I got infected and it was through that inspirational spirit that I got through it all. People survive Ebola mainly because they have developed that mindset that they are going to make it. If a person at the eastern provinces can survive the virus I too can do it too, it’s all about your mind set and it all depends on your determination. When I got infected I had that inspiration that I am going to fight Ebola at all cost.
I learned that we should adhere to the medical advice given to us by our health practitioners and had people followed the advice of the medical practitioners when it started in the provinces so many lives could have been saved. We should try as a nation to adhere and listen carefully to health practitioner and other people who are very well experienced with such illnesses. If we had stopped some of our cultural practices of coming close to the sick then the rate of victims will not have sky rocketed. Our cultural practice was a challenge to the Ebola virus.
Sierra Leone is a very religious country so we are going to pray and embark on vigorous campaigns.
My life changed a bit before getting infected with the virus, I was a vigorous activist in Governance for Youth and women’s participations in our democratic process. I am now seeing myself embarking on social mobilization drives which are two different things but my normal working life is being threatened by Ebola so I am not able to achieve my role wherein I raise the awareness for youth and women to be active in Governance. I see it as a slight change in my normal life of promoting the welfare of my community.
I have severe challenges, I lost my brothers and sisters so there children are now under my wings. I have to take their responsibilities which is very challenging because were my salary was just enough for my unclear family now I have added responsibility.
The best thing that can happen to me is for me to get back to my normal working life. I have so much passion for my job.
The formation of the SLAES is very timely, this is where we hold weekly meeting and encourage our fellow survivors to explain to us about their current situation in life there is a saying that says who feels it knows it. We embark on this social mobilization because people tend to listen to us since we are survivors when we go into communities, we explain to them about our experiences and preach to them about the dangers of Ebola virus. We are expanding our voluntary activities to all regions and preaching to people about the consequences of taking care of the sick. We advice them to take the sick to hospitals and avoid body contact.
The rate of infection has drastically reduces because of the immense role we have played in breaking the chain of transmission through the social mobilization drive. People in communities believe us so much when we show them our discharge certificate that they listen to us. Now the awareness rate is very much high thereby reducing the rate of infection.
My wish and hope is for the healthcare unit to be available to all diverse people in Sierra Leone. The SLAES and my own personal opinion we really want the entire health system to be overall, wherein full scale health unit is available to poor vulnerable people at a cheap cost. If there are healthcare centre available in communities people would be more willing to participate in building their communities because only health people can participate in community building. The Government and other international organisation should invest in healthcare centres because a healthy nation is a prosperous nation.
We are going to embark on series of advocating, lobbying and raising awareness to the people that they should respectfully and peacefully advocate for their needs in the society especially with regards to the health system. People should engage the religious leaders parliamentarians and counsellors that it is high time they adhere to their manifestos that they should provide health care facilities because in all the manifestos of all the political parties that when they come into Governance they would put more premium on health so the people should have that awareness that should engage their leaders for them to properly enact health facility structures and also bring in medicine to heal the sick.
One big thing that I want all Sierra Leoneans to do is to continue showing love and passion to one another. People should also stop this issue of stigmatization of survivors or any other person who has gone through severe illness in our community. People should encourage such people because some of these survivors have critical role to play in developing our communities but if you stigmatize them and that person happens to not be strong enough them that community have lost an asset and he/she will not contribute to society building.