“They told me that at the Ebola hospital they would kill me and take away all my organs,” says 11- year-old Tonhon. She is the only one, so far, who has survived the recent Ebola outbreak in Guinea. But the rumours could have taken her life too.
“I had headaches, I had pain in my stomach and a fever. I was so weak I couldn’t even go to school,” Tonhon explains. Her father wanted to send her to the Ebola Treatment Center, but after what the neighbours had told the girl- she refused. Her condition deteriorated every day. Finally, Tonhon’s father no longer asked for permission and took his daughter to the center in N’Zérékoré.
“I was so scared. I had all the rumours in the back of my head, wondering what they would do to me at the hospital,” the girl asserts.
To her surprise, she was well received. “They asked me about my name, my age, my family and they wanted to know where it was hurting. I answered all their questions, they started my treatment and they always asked me what I wanted to eat,” Tonhon recalls.
It was in March this year, after a longer break from Ebola, the alarm again went off in Guinea. Three people had died consecutively without safe burials. The national authorities responded immediately to contain the outbreak. But by the time they were alerted several people were infected, including Tonhon. None of the others made it, but the 11 year-old fought hard and won.
After 11 days at the hospital, Tohon was discharged and Ebola free. She is happy to be with her family again and her return, alive, lights a hope in the entire village. She is the living proof of the fact that it is feasible to beat this disease with the right treatment. Tonhon wants to help spread the message.
“I now want to go back to school and tell my friends what I’ve lived at the hospital and that all the rumours are false.”
After Tonhon was admitted to the Ebola Treatment Center, her clothes and sheets had to be burned due to infection prevention and control. When she returned home, UNICEF, the World Food Program, AGIL, the Danish Refugees Council and ALIMA provided the girl with new clothes, toys and sheets and supported the family with cash, hygiene kits and food items.
Mohamed Saidou Diallo is a communication assistant at UNICEF Guinea