8 January 2015
Ebola survivors in West Africa are connecting with each other and sharing public health advice, as well as speaking about the challenges they face in post-recovery, using an interactive mobile app available through #ISurvivedEbola, the ground- breaking West African multimedia campaign.
The innovative digital tool debuted in Guinea on 5 January, piloted by the first Guinean survivor to share her story with the #ISurvivedEbola campaign. The website also houses the stories of a growing community of Ebola survivors from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
In the first message sent via the mobile app, Camara “Fanta” Fantaoulen said: “Yes, I survived Ebola, thanks to the help of the brave health care workers who treated me. And I’ve learned that together, we can defeat this virus and protect our families and communities.”
After losing her father and five other family members to suspected or confirmed Ebola, Fantaoulen believed her death was imminent when she tested positive for the virus. Thanks to a combination of early treatment, strict adherence to her treatment plan, and sheer determination, she recovered from the virus and is now providing psychosocial support to Ebola patients.
The mobile app is the latest component of the #ISurvivedEbola campaign, which leverages survivor stories from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to deliver vital public health information about Ebola to affected populations, and to reduce the stigma faced by Ebola survivors.
A key way in which the campaign does this is by documenting survivor stories in video, audio, and print formats; then disseminating these stories broadly via local, national, and international media, online platforms, and other distribution channels. Educational radio dramas that tell fictional yet reality-based stories of survival, and radio call-in shows that feature Ebola survivors as guests, are among the campaign activities.
#ISurvivedEbola is part of the #TackleEbola initiative and is implemented by PCI Media Impact in collaboration with Unicef.
Each survivor who has shared his or her story through the campaign is given a smartphone installed with the app. This helps them to use the technology to share information about their lives after recovery. The smartphones and the app were provided and developed with support from the charity fundraising website GlobalGiving.
With the release of the app and launch of the website, the #ISurvivedEbola campaign has completed the first phase of its roll-out. It includes two additional survivor story videos from survivors in Liberia and Sierra Leone, respectively.
The Liberia video introduces the world to Decontee Davis, a 23-year-old who overcame Ebola but lost her fiance to the virus. Davis now works in an interim care centre for children who have come in contact with Ebola patients and are under 21 days of observation. Many of these children have lost one or both parents to the disease.
From Sierra Leone, audiences meet Aminata Kargbo, a university student who, after surviving Ebola, has become a leader in efforts to educate others on the benefits of early treatment.
“We began in early December with the launch of the campaign and release of the first survivor video out of Liberia,” said Sean Southey, chief executive of PCI Media Impact.
“Then, the campaign launched educational Ebola-focused radio programmes in Liberia and released the premier survivor story out of Sierra Leone. Now, we have activated the mobile app, released the first survivor story out of Guinea, and launched a website that will allow concerned citizens throughout the world to join the movement.”
The multiple #ISurvivedEbola campaign products and activities are reinforcing the existing work being done by organisations like Unicef in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to spread key messages about Ebola to the public.
“While treatment of Ebola patients is critical, the best way to end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is to cut the chain of transmission and prevent further infections,” said Rafael Obregon, chief of the communication for development section at Unicef.
“As the global UN lead for the Social Mobilization Pillar of the Ebola response in West Africa, Unicef is at the helm of efforts to stop transmission by working with national governments and partners to educate the public in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea about how to protect themselves, their families, and their communities from the virus.
“#ISurvivedEbola is reinforcing our efforts by providing this information in multiple, highly entertaining forms, including through the testimonies of actual survivors.”
- Videos for the #ISurvivedEbola campaign are available on Vimeo, while audio clips are available on Soundcloud.
- Follow #ISurvivedEbola on Twitter @SurvivedEbola, Facebook, and Instagram @isurvivedebola.