Discrimination, Stigmatization And Rejection Of Ebola Survivors: The Need To Act Now

By Morrison O.G Sayon-0886591509/0775107709 email gaigosayon73@yahoo.com

Some of the scars left behind by the vicious Ebola Virus Disease is the issue of rejection, discrimination and stigmatization something that survivors are finding difficult to overcome. Since the closure of Ebola Treatment Units in the country many of the survivors have consistently complained about the level of discrimination meted against them. Some of them have even been rejected by their communities while on the other hand; family members as well as closed friends are no longer willing to associate with them.

I’m raising these issues because those who have been rejected by their communities are not just Ebola survivors but Liberians, our brothers and sisters who did not wish to contract Ebola but rather a fate that befell them. Some of us who were fortunate to escape the wrath of the virus did not do so because we are super human beings but because God was on our side. That does not mean that we have special favor from God than the others.Those people went to the ETU not because they wanted to do so but because the disease came and they were unfortunate to have contracted the disease but again thank God that they survived the wrath of the menace, so because they survived, should we consider them as enemies?

When the Ebola virus was raging in our country, we were all neglected by other countries; it was very difficult for Liberians to travel to other countries because of the discrimination against us though Liberians did not call the virus upon themselves. We were kept on airports for many days because we came from Liberia until the world had to speak with one voice that we did not make Ebola and therefore, every form of discrimination must be stopped against us. And that is why we stood up and spoke out against the level of discrimination, stigmatization and rejection meted against us as Liberians and our President, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf having seen the situation faced by Liberians launched an appeal to the World to consider us as human beings and accept us in their countries. But in our own home, we are telling our brothers and sisters that they are not part of the society and that they can no longer live in our homes simply because they are Ebola survivors. For me, it is very wrong for people to treat survivors in such manner because these are people who are already fighting to cope with this terrible situation and if we continue to reject them we will be telling others to reject us in their countries as well.

Remember that the Ebola virus does not discriminate but because some of us were lucky that the virus did not reach your door steps, let us not be so ignorant to the fact that when one survives Ebola, that person is free from the virus and can live with others without spreading the virus. That is why we need to help to reintegrate them into the society once more and stop adding up to their grieves and frustrations; they need our support, our counsel and association more than before.

I was shocked to hear some of the difficult stories told by some of the survivors and the precarious situation they are undergoing now only because they have been rejected by their communities. Some are said to be living in Churches because no body wants to see them in the communities even though they are free of the virus. During the recent visit of former President Bill Clinton I heard some of the horrible stories of the survivors that brought sorrow to me. Some of the survivors complained that there have been intense marginalization, stigmatization, discrimination and rejection against them by their own communities, their own people, people who ate with them, slept with them and walked with them before. They also complained of lack of access to income, healthcare and jobs as no one is willing to employ them. In fact it is said that landlords are asking them out of their homes. What are their crimes? Is it simply because they are Ebola survivors?

Let it be known that these people did not create their own fate for which they should be rejected. I thought we should be embracing them since they did not succumbed to the virus, but we have gone to the extent of rejecting them, discriminating against them and even refusing to allow them in our homes; what a shameful and demeaning act!

What we should be doing now is to stop the stigmatization and discrimination against them and accept them because they are alive. Let us make them feel part of us as former President Clinton rightly said. They are not and should not be considered as our enemies but rather be looked at as celebrants because thank God they have their lives. They need to be embraced by us. Let’s stop being afraid of them; make them to feel part of the society and once again consider them as brothers and sisters.

If you discriminate against the survivors, then you are just adding insult to injury and will be ‘digging their early graves’. We love them and you too must love them and open your doors to them as brothers and sisters. We are not important than those brothers and sisters. But again, some of those who are rejecting the survivors are doing this out of ignorance therefore, we must educate them that one who survives Ebola is clear of the virus and you will not contract the virus only by accepting them in your homes or in the community.

Let The Government Act Now

This is the time for the Government of Liberia to get involved in ensuring that the level of discrimination, stigmatization and rejection stop against these people. They are human beings and deserve to live in any community of their choice as long as they are law abiding and peaceful citizens. Government must act now by introducing measures against anyone who discriminates against Ebola survivors. These people are already psychologically traumatized and they have lost all of their belongings and even their homes and children; they need our help and support and that is why it is important to protect them and give them all the necessary support to make them feel part of the society once again.

Any measure put in place must be squarely intended to protect the survivors because their situation is very difficult and if nothing is done to address their plights, I’m afraid that they might not be able to cope with the discriminatory situation and some of them may likely want to commit suicide or do other things to themselves because of the situation they find themselves in today. I will propose that punitive measures including harsh punishments be imposed on anyone who discriminates or stigmatizes Ebola survivors. This will serve as deterrence to others. If that is not done, the level of stigmatization, discrimination and rejection will continue against the survivors and may result to other things that are not healthy for the society. That is my appeal and I hope that government or the appropriate authorities act now to avoid further embarrassment for the survivors. REMEMBER: Ebola survivors are our heroes and heroines.