Mobile app helps Ebola survivors share live-saving tips

Camara “Fanta” Fantaoulen of Guinea sent the first message on the new app: "Yes, I survived Ebola."
Date:7 January 2015 Tags:,

A new interactive mobile app that allows Ebola survivors to connect with each other, share public health advice, and update the world on the challenges they still face during their post-recovery lives has been launched by #ISurvivedEbola, the groundbreaking West African multimedia campaign.

The innovative digital tool debuted in Guinea on January 5. It is being piloted by the first Guinean survivor to share her story with the #ISurvivedEbola campaign. The updates from the app appear on the newly launched #ISurvivedEbola Web site, which also houses the stories of a growing community of Ebola survivors from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

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 on Ebola to the public. The multi-platform campaign encompasses the activation of the mobile app, the release of the first survivor story out of Guinea, and the launch of a Web site that will allow concerned citizens throughout the world to join the movement.The first message sent via the mobile app stated, in French, “Yes, I survived Ebola, thanks to the help of the brave healthcare 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, Camara “Fanta” Fantaoulen of Guinea 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, Fanta recovered from the virus and is now providing psychosocial support to Ebola patients.

View her survivor story video here.

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 equally important campaign activities.

Funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen’s Vulcan Productions in response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, #ISurvivedEbola is part of the #TackleEbola initiative and the Paul G Allen Family Foundation’s commitment of at least $100 million (about R1 100 million) for Ebola relief. The campaign is implemented by PCI Media Impact in collaboration with UNICEF.

“The app gives a human face to survivorship and has the potential to create a sense of community in which the survivors, rather than being stigmatised, become leaders and heroes in this fight,” says arole Tomko, General Manager and Creative Director of Vulcan Productions. “The new digital components of the campaign extend our reach beyond West Africa, allowing these very moving, personal stories to be seen and heard globally.”

Currently, campaign staff in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are providing each survivor who has shared his or her story through the campaign with a smartphone installed with the app, thereby enabling these individuals 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 Web site GlobalGiving. Campaign staff expect survivors in all three countries to begin using the app within two weeks. The mobile app updates will be shared globally on the #ISurvivedEbola Web site.

The campaign highlights other stories of hope and resilience to the world’s focus on the Ebola outbreak. The latest Liberia video introduces the world to Decontee Davis, a 23-year-old who overcame Ebola but lost her fiancé 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. In a new Sierra Leone video, audiences meet Aminata Kargbo, a university student who, after surviving Ebola, has arisen as a leader in efforts to educate her fellow countrymen and women on the benefits of early treatment.

“(Although) 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,” says Rafael Obregon, Chief of the Communication for Development Section at UNICEF. “As the global UN lead for the Social Mobilisation 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.”

Visit the #ISurvivedEbola campaign on Facebook and  Instagram or download videos.

SOURCE: African Press Organisation, on behalf of #TackleEbola