The impact of the Ebola virus on Liberia is diverse but for show it has changed Liberia all together. Many families directly affected by the killer disease are still struggling to deal with the health side effects and the enormous socio-economic constraints already existed in a country striving to recover from protracted civil war.
For children who lost both parents to the virus, they now have to live with a guardian(s) and for those who lost one parent the financial duties have doubled for the single parent. Unlike the financial challenges, there are also socio-cultural challenges these families endure on a daily basis.
22 years old Stella Lymax is a resident of Dirt Hole Community in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. Stella is the eldest of four children who lost their father to Ebola. Her father was the first person to come in contact with the first Ebola patient in Grand Bassa. He later died.
Stella still lives in the same house with the rest of the family and their mother now has to provide for the household.
In an Interview, she explains the difficulties her family goes through without a father and how Ebola has changed their lives.
Local Voices Liberia: Welcome to this interview Stella. We understand you lost your father to the Ebola virus, tell us how is life like for your family now?
Stella Lymax: It’s not easy now, because our father was the bread winner of the family and now he’s taken away. We are only left here with our mother and she’s doing government job (how much is it) the whole family about 14 children they all on her one, no help from anywhere, any family. Just imagine ever since registration started my ma has not registered anyone, she is still thinking where money will come from. They haven’t even taken pay yet.
LVL: Have your family received any assistance from outside like NGO or government?
Stella: Yes, we received assistance from WFP. They give us food.
LVL: Just food, what’s about financial assistance?
Stella: No. No financial assistance.
LVL: Unlike the work your mother does, what other things does your family rely on?
Stella: We have this pharmacy; we sell bread that’s all. Beside the work my mother is doing, no one in this house is working; we all are students in this house.
LVL: Tell us about life without your father. How is the family without him?
Stella: It’s very sad, because our family was very lively although we never had everything to 100% but we were very grateful. He was working just for the family to be able to survive; he was working to two places and it was enough for us but when our father left it was so difficult. My mother, just imagine, she does not even know how to give food money and now she’s doing it. Sometimes the crying can’t just stop. Whenever she thinks about the difficulties in the home, the crying can’t stop. It’s very sad.
LVL: When your father contracted the virus, how long did it take for the family to accept and believe that it was the virus he contracted?
Stella: The very day he contracted the virus when he came from work he said it. Yes I believed it because the virus was already in the city. We were the first people in Buchanan that experienced the virus and when they were quarantining him all those signs that they talked about everything happened to him, so we couldn’t say it wasn’t the virus.
LVL: We understand that he quarantined himself. Was it hard for you (the family) to stay away from him or were you sometimes tempted to go around?
Stella: It was hard, very hard. We are family that very close, glued together because whenever our father came from work the children ran to him, the children running to him hugging him because he will never come from work without bringing a peanut. We’re used to that; so it was very hard for us and even if they said we should not go to the quarantine center, we will still go there. We missed him a lot. Every day we used to go there and spend the whole day there.
LVL: We understand your house was also stigmatized by the community. Tell us about it?
Stella: From the day our father came from work and said that he came in contact with a patient on July 31 (2015) from that very day people pointed hands at us. For that reason we never sat at the front of our house; we always used to be at the back of the house. Because people used to point hands at us saying ‘that is the Ebola house there’. Even when we go on the road, people pointing hands and those who never knew us started saying things about us. The other time I can even remember I went in the market to buy flour from a woman I always buy flour from, the woman daughter said she was not going to serve me. I begin to think why she was not serving me and it was the same week my father died. When I came home I told my mother she said I should forget about it. We were really stigmatized.
LVL: How it changed? Because we understand the community is now relating to your household; they are interacting with you once again.
Stella: It took about one month some weeks.
LVL: Why do you think their attitude change toward you?
Stella: Maybe why their attitude change toward us is because we went through the 21 days quarantine. I can say we went through about 40 days, maybe they felt that nobody got sick again in our house so we were free from the virus.
LVL: Where everybody obeying the quarantine rules in your house? There were some people who were running away from quarantine centers.
Stella: We accepted that the virus exists and for one fact, the very virus they were talking about happened right in front of us. Our father used to be talking ‘wash your hands’ and even when my ma going to work he will set her down and advise her good. So when my father died we really believed that this virus exists and everyone in our house took precautions; everybody was washing their hands. If you reached in our house only chlorine you will smell, because we used to bath with chloride and do everything with it.
LVL: Do you have anything to say to the people out there about your family?
Stella: They still get some people out there. It has passed one year now since my father died but people still stigmatized people; you may not know but when you passing people still talk about it. So I’m appealing to people out there that this thing has passed so they should try and come together. Do you know that some people cut-off speech from others just because of Ebola Business? Some people are not speaking to some people because their people died and they never came to them.
LVL: For you have you forgiven people who didn’t come to sympathize with you when your father died?
Stella: Yes, I forgive some people
LVL: What’s your hope for your family? When you sit and think what do you think is the way out for you?
Stella: As I sitting right now, the only solution I think there’s hope for us is only God because we don’t have anybody to look up to for any help. It’s only God.
LVL: Stella; thank you for speaking to us
Stella: Ok. Thank you too.