MMWR details support services being offered to Ebola survivors in West Africa

Dec. 17, 2014

The fatality rate in West Africa’s ongoing Ebola epidemic—estimates range from 60 percent to 70 percent of those hospitalized—is a sobering statistic. It also means, however that many Ebola patients survive. There now are thousands of Ebola survivors. But survivors often face stigma, income loss, and both grief and “survivor guilt” over the loss of family and friends. In addition, upon recovery many find that their possessions have been destroyed to prevent disease transmission. They are sometimes shunned by their community. They face many challenges.

Two reports published recently in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) detail programs in Liberia and Sierra Leone to help Ebola survivors reintegrate with their communities and resume their lives.

CDC staff has joined a consortium of members of the Sierra Leonean government, nongovernment organizations, and donor agencies to assess the needs of Ebola survivors. The group performed a study of three districts heavily affected by Ebola, convened a National Survivor Conference, conducted focus groups with survivors, and observed counseling sessions at a survivor wellness center. Survivors reported inadequate counseling, community reintegration, and material support.

Survivors showed great interest in contributing to the Ebola response through activities such as sharing their stories directly through radio and other broadcast media. They also expressed interest in participating in direct Ebola care and treatment support and in providing spiritual support to other Ebola patients. Many indicated that this work would help restore their own sense of dignity.

The consortium now is coordinating financial and psychosocial support for survivors. This includes a “survivor packet” that contains bedding, clothing, and other essentials of daily living. Counselors will accompany survivors when they return to their home villages to facilitate reintegration, and counselors are speaking with local traditional authorities and other community members about the importance of accepting returning survivors. Survivor support centers are also being established.

Learn more from the CDC website