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Sierra Leone: Mariatu

Surviving Ebola to help others

Mariatu Ebola survivor and health worker
Ebola survivor Mariatu now helps others survive by changing people’s social behaviour and beliefs to help stop the spread.
Vickie Remoe/Go Woman Magazine

Mariatu is an extraordinary woman. She lost her daughter, her sister and most of her family to Ebola. She nearly died herself, yet somehow she survived. But this was not nearly the first time Mariatu had feared for her life, before Ebola she survived the ravages of Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war, negotiating for her life first with the rebels and then with the government forces.

Somehow she walked the line between these two perils and preserved her family and her home. Then Ebola came.

The disease took her daughter, her sister and most of her family. Eventually Mariatu herself contracted Ebola. She recalls that people were too scared to come close to her, pushing plates of food under her door. She was too weak even to reach out and take the bowls of rice. But still this remarkable woman didn’t give up. She survived and now works hard to spread the message that Ebola can be beaten.

Mariatu is not a big woman and she speaks softly, but standing under the shade of a tree the villagers listen with quiet respect as she tells them her story and teaches them the simple steps they need to take to beat this disease.

Mariatu knows her people are stubborn and that they place great value on their traditions. It’s the same stubbornness that got them through all the ravages they’ve faced over the years. But then she too is stubborn.

Read more about Mariatu’s story:

Without the hard work of individuals such as Mariatu, many people will not have access to health information and services. That is why WHO is highlighting the incredible role played by health workers through the campaign #ThanksHealthHero.