Eighteen months after the outbreak began, Ebola continues to affect many aspects of life in Guinea: the economy, infrastructure, trade, health care systems, education and livelihoods.
It has ravaged families and turned lives upside down; but it has also brought people together and revealed remarkable levels of resilience. Guineans shared their stories with IRIN. Here’s a selection:
"Ebola made me an orphan" - Mado Millimouno, 13
At least 852 children lost either one or both parents to Ebola in Gueckedou, according to the town officials. Some, like Mado, have found homes with extended families. Others have been sent to start new lives with host families. Many have been separated from their siblings.
Mado was taken in by her paternal uncle and his wife. Her younger sister was sent to live with extended family “far away” in another village. They haven’t seen each other since their parents’ funeral in December.
“She is my last family. And now I can’t see her.”
“Ebola gave me a new purpose” - Saa Sabas Temessadouno, 48
He spent more than three weeks in an Ebola treatment unit after testing positive for the virus.
“This certificate proves I have been cured of Ebola,” he said. “It shows I am no longer contagious. When people see it, they believe it.”
A few months after his release from the treatment centre, the former agronomist helped found the Association for People Affected by and Cured of Ebola in Gueckedou to help other survivors reintegrate into their communities.
“There was so much stigma for a while,” Temessadouno said. “We couldn’t find work. Our families shunned us. Now we work to educate people so that survivors are welcomed home, not sent away. It has been very successful.”
“Ebola almost killed me and my mother” – Rosaline Kondiano, 12
“My name is Rosaline Kondiano and I was cured of Ebola”
Rosaline first got sick in March 2014, just after the Ebola outbreak was officially identified in Guinea. She says she suffered from a bad headache, vomiting, diarrhea and chills, after taking care of her mother who had similar symptoms.
“MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] came to the house and took us [her, along with her mother, aunt and grandmother] to the Ebola centre. I saw a doctor who took my blood. The next day he told me I had Ebola. I didn’t know what that was, but I was very afraid because I saw other sick people around me. Once they entered [the treatment centre] they never left.”
Rosaline spent one month at the centre. She had no news of her family during that time.
“At first, I thought I was going to die. But towards the end, I knew I would live. The day they told me I was cured, I was so happy. I finally went home and was with my family again.”
Rosaline and her mother were among the “lucky” survivors. They were received back into their communities with open arms. Many others, even children, were shunned and kept away from former friends.
“People here were very welcoming. I am the only survivor at my school, but I had no problem with other kids. They have had my back. We play together; we eat together.”
Rosaline says she has been helping to educate other kids about Ebola since she returned home.
“Now I understand Ebola very well. I tell people every day to wash their hands with bleach and I advise my parents and siblings not to touch the body of someone with Ebola.”
Rosaline says her experience with Ebola has inspired her to become a doctor when she grows up.
“EBOLA MADE ME AN OUTCAST” – FINA, 38
“I used to come to the watering hole every day with many women, but now we each go alone,” said Fina, who was placed in quarantine for 21 days after her husband died from Ebola in November.
“I never got sick with this hemorrhagic fever virus, but even after I was freed, people were afraid of me. My friends wouldn’t speak with me. I had to eat alone. Even, at first, my own children were afraid. People are still scared of us at the market because they know the dead came from here.”
“Ebola kept us apart” – Coumba Odee, age 17, and Sia Fanta Camano, 18
“During the outbreak, they told us not to touch any one,” Coumba said. “At first we didn’t listen. But then people kept dying. So we stayed away from even our best friends. Now we are happy. You see, today, we can be together. We can do [each other’s] hair. It is like before once again.”
“Ebola made our community smarter” - Balde Abdouorahmane
“I joined the CVV [a local community advisory group] because I wanted to eradicate Ebola and explain to people about the virus,” said Balde Abdouorahame, who has been going door-to-door every weekday since the group’s creation in January to educate people about Ebola.
“I’m proud of the awareness-raising we’ve done because it helps explain to the population how to protect themselves and it reduces fear,” he said, estimating that his CVV reached between 30 and 50 families each week. “We taught them how to get rid of this terrible sickness.”
Abdouorahmane said it was sometimes difficult to go from house to house, day after day.
“It takes time and we often didn’t have the means for transport. Reaching remote areas is difficult,” he said.
“But we persevered and even now we can continue to raise awareness after Ebola because we want to save people in other ways. People will always benefit from being educated about their health.”
Interviews and photos by Jennifer Lazuta