DAKAR, March 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Three years
after the world's worst recorded Ebola outbreak was first
declared in Guinea, hundreds of survivors who suffer from
physical and mental health problems are struggling to access
care, a medical charity said on Friday.
More than 1,100 people in Guinea survived the deadly virus -
around a third of whom are estimated to suffer from depression,
and four in 10 from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to
The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA).
Most suffer physical problems, including joint pain,
headaches and chronic fatigue, health experts say.
Yet many survivors cannot afford health care, said Ivonne
Loua, a doctor who runs ALIMA's survivor care programme in
"It is important that survivors and their families have
access to quality care, because many are unable to work and
cannot afford to pay their own care," she said in a statement.
The Ebola epidemic killed more than 11,300 people and
infected some 28,600 between 2013 and 2016 as it swept through
the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
While the outbreak came under control last year, many
survivors have been shunned by their families, communities, and
even medical workers.
The virus can lie dormant and hide in parts of the body such
as the eyes and testicles long after leaving the bloodstream -
raising questions about whether it can ever be beaten, with West
Africa's 17,000 survivors acting as a potential human reservoir.
While experts say the risk of Ebola being transmitted from
survivors to others is low, suspicion lingers.
Almost half of the survivors that ALIMA has provided care to
in Guinea's southeastern town of N'Zérékoré said they still
experienced stigma, which could worsen psychological problems.
"They are traumatised by what they experienced and
overcame," said Davin Mpaka, a neuropsychiatrist with ALIMA.
"Many feel like they have nothing else to gain from life,
but they have no one to talk to about it," he added.
Authorities in neighbouring Liberia said this month they
were investigating the death from childbirth of a woman named
Time magazine "Person of the Year" in 2014 for her work fighting
Ebola after reports that health staff were afraid to treat her.
The death of Salomé Karwah - whose sister said medics
refused to touch her because she contracted the virus in 2014 -
has raised fears that stigma surrounding Ebola could lead to
preventable deaths of survivors.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.