By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
Reporting from Kailahun
Taiwa Sahr is a 19 year-old mysterious survivor of the Ebola Virus Disease. She comes from Kpondu, a village bordering Guinea and Sierra Leone in the Kailahun District in the East of the country. She is a daughter in-law to the local herbalist alleged to have brought Ebola to Sierra Leone from Guinea.
Taiwa was pregnant when her mother and father in-laws died of Ebola. According to Taiwa, she got infected and was taken to the Koindu Hospital but ‘I was not given proper treatment’. She ran away from the hospital and returned to the village, where she later gave birth to female twins, Mattu and Agnes Sahr, who are now 11 months old.
Having lost her husband, Taiwa returned to her parents’ house in the same village. She became traumatised and lost hope in life, and kept on thinking about how to take care of herself and the twins. She had no source of income and her parents were not able to support her. She could not also start a farm because of the children. She experienced a lot of uncertainties and faced an unpredictable future. The social protection support from the Government did not benefit her. Apart from the Kailahun Women in Governance Network (KWIGN) and SEND Sierra Leone, no other NGO has ever come to her rescue.
Through funds from OSIWA Christian Aid and Weitblick Germany, Taiwa is now supported together with other 259 orphans and 202 survivors in Kailahun district. As part of the larger beneficiaries, she received food and non-food items to meet her immediate needs. She now has a mattress where she and her children rest in comfort, and cooking utensils that she lost because of the Ebola Virus Disease to enable her cook.
For independence and resilience, Taiwa was supported with an initial capital of One Million Leones (about US$200) to enable her start a small business. She now sells soft drinks, and other assorted items patronized by residents of the village.
On our visit to her on the 22nd of May 2015, Taiwa was apparently delighted.
“I am now very happy, hopeful and confident about life,” she told us, and further explained about her recent activities.
“I was recently in Guinea to visit my uncle who was sick. One of my daughters, Mattu, fell sick while I was there. I used some of the profit from my business to take care of her medical bills. I did not get financial support from my parents. I now depend on my business and I am very happy I am doing so on my own. When you first came to this village last year, you met me almost naked and you asked me to find something to cover myself. I was ashamed. Now you see me well dressed and my children too. I bought all of these from proceeds from my business. I am happy that I am in business and I am making profit,” narrated Taiwa.
And she had a message for the Loan Officer of SEND Foundation Sierra Leone: “Please tell Esther what I have done. I have been able to save Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Leones with the Credit Union which I intend to use in the future to support my children and to expand my business. I am grateful to the Kailahun Women in Governance Network, SEND, OSIWA, Christian Aid and Weitblick Germany for helping me to be hopeful in life. See the way Agnes (one of the twins) is now active!”
Meanwhile, Taiwa wants to learn additional trade such as hairdressing to enable her become more resilient and independent.
The rest of the orphans and survivors need to be similarly supported to return to school, learn a trade or to engage in agricultural activities.
With just US$ 24,917.52, 16,000 pound and US$ 1,400 from OSIWA, Christian Aid, and Weitblick Germany, respectively, the KWIGN and SEND Sierra Leone have supported orphans, survivors and foster families with food and non-food items, psychosocial counselling, and monthly stipends to Six (6) Ebola foster families, and sensitized over 3000 women across the Kailahun District by supporting two community radios to educate the general public weekly about Ebola.