The #ISurvivedEbola campaign aims to end the Ebola outbreak

Six-year-old Patrick Poopei and his father William walk out of the Ebola Treatment isolation unit in Monrovia, Liberia. Both are now Ebola survivors.
Six-year-old Patrick Poopei and his father William walk out of the Ebola Treatment isolation unit in Monrovia, Liberia. Both are now Ebola survivors.

The campaign has kicked off with the release of the first in a series of videos that feature Ebola survivors from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea sharing their stories and perspectives with the world.

Read: Could Ebola hit SA?

The #ISurvivedEbola multimedia campaign is the first to directly engage Ebola survivors in delivering key protective messages to affected communities, and to highlight stories of hope and resilience in the midst of the ongoing epidemic.

The campaign is being supported as part of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s broader #TackleEbola initiative, into which Allen has promised $100 million to support organisations working to end the Ebola outbreak, while simultaneously urging other donors to do the same.

The campaign will be driven by survivor stories

Funded by Allen’s company Vulcan, Inc., #ISurvivedEbola is being implemented by New York-based PCI Media Impact in partnership with UNICEF. The campaign will be driven by survivor stories shared in multiple forms across a variety of media platforms.

#ISurvivedEbola is a multidimensional, trans-media campaign that places Ebola survivor stories from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea at the center of national and international efforts to:

•          Inform the West African general public about the virus and how they can protect themselves and their communities from it;

•          Reduce stigmatisation and promote reintegration of Ebola survivors; and

•          Shift the international narrative around the Ebola outbreak away from fear and despair, toward resilience and hope, without downplaying the remaining challenges.

Shared across all platforms

Survivor testimonies will be captured by in-country filmmaking and production teams, who will then package them in video, audio, print and mobile-ready forms. The products will be shared via local, national and international television; by radio and newspaper outlets; on web and social media; and through mobile technology.

The #ISurvivedEbola campaign will create a network of survivors and supporters that starts at the community level and stretches around the globe. This network will link West African survivors to each other, to their countrymen and women, and to the world.

Sean Southey, CEO of the entertainment-education organisation PCI Media Impact stated:

“The Ebola outbreak has spread fear and spawned misinformation across West Africa and the world. Despite the outpouring of international aid, the number of Ebola cases continues to rise, and the disease is trickling beyond the borders of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Ebola affects us all, so the international community needs to step up to stop it. But to correct misinformation, we must spotlight survivors’ stories – compelling narratives of resilience and hope – and listen to local perspectives about how together, we can tackle Ebola.”

With over 16,000 Ebola cases and over 7,000 deaths reported since March 2014 – over 99 per cent of them in West Africa – the outbreak has been declared a global public health emergency and alarmed the world.

Governments, UN agencies, nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups of all shapes and sizes have launched projects to address the epidemic: from setting up treatment and testing facilities, to supporting improved hygiene and sanitation, to educating communities on how to prevent and respond to Ebola.

Read: Staying hydrated could be the key to surviving Ebola

What’s missing?

Reports continue to focus on tracking statistics on the rising number of Ebola cases and death tolls. Until now, there has been no concerted campaign focused on sharing the first-hand knowledge and resources that the rising number of Ebola survivors can offer.

Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative in Liberia, stated:

“Ebola survivors have powerful stories to tell. Their accounts of resilience and survival can inspire hundreds of others, address misconceptions and help fight stigma - one of the biggest challenges Ebola survivors face.

We are proud to be supporting the #ISurvivedEbola campaign, which seeks to empower these brave individuals and help amplify their stories to the world.”

The first #ISurvivedEbola video sets the tone for the campaign by sharing the story of William and Patrick Poopei, a father and son who contracted and recovered from Ebola in Liberia.

Watch: Hope in the Midst of an Outbreak: William's Story of Survival from #ISurvivedEbola on Vimeo.

William narrates the piece from a bench outside his home in Paynesville, while six-year-old Patrick sits quietly by his side. In a voice that only occasionally belies the grief he has experienced, William tells the world how he lost his wife and 13 other family members to suspected Ebola, and how early treatment helped him and Patrick recover from the virus.

He closes the piece with a commitment to continue to educate his fellow Liberians so that they can protect themselves – a commitment that will drive #ISurvivedEbola.

ReadEbola survivors have to use condoms for up to 70 days to avoid transmitting the disease

30 more stories of Ebola survival

In the coming weeks and months, #ISurvivedEbola will roll out 30 more stories of survivors who are ready, willing, and prepared to share their first-person accounts of recovery with their local communities and the world.

The campaign will produce videos, photos, audio clips and news articles communicating these stories, and will then share them across multiple media platforms at the community, national and international levels.

Targeted media outlets will include television and radio stations, newspapers, blogs, social media and websites. “Low tech” communications for development materials such as posters, billboards and comic strips will also be used in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, to reach those without television or Internet.

Image: Ebola survivor Patrick Poopei shows off his new bike donated to him by Doctors Without Borders. Image from Flickr

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Each survivor will be given a smartphone

In an innovative twist, each survivor featured in a campaign video will be given a smartphone with a mobile app that he or she can use to update campaign followers on their lives after recovery. The app will help forge stronger links between the survivors, who can communicate through it.

It will also support ongoing communication between the survivors and the world. The app could be particularly helpful in providing a nuanced picture of life after recovery, from the joy of being Ebola-free to the very real challenges many survivors still face in rebuilding their lives, including stigmatisation and financial struggles.

Image: Six-year-old Ebola survivor Patrick Poopei talks to PCI Media Impact staff Carolyn Kindelan about his new bicycle. Image from Flickr

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In the near future, radio dramas and call-in shows will also start broadcasting in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to complement the survivor stories. Developed by PCI Media Impact in 12 West African languages, these dramas and call-in shows will reinforce key messages on Ebola prevention and response, as well as feature audio clips from survivors.

Read: Ebola vaccine seems safe in first-stage testing

JD Stier, PCI Media Impact’s Campaign Manager for the roll-out, stated:

“By providing a channel through which survivor stories can be broadcast and amplified, #ISurvivedEbola will facilitate the dissemination of life-saving information from those whose lives it saved, to those who need it most.

The #ISurvivedEbola campaign will continue until the last Ebola victim has recovered. We are in this for the long haul, until that point when affected countries can go beyond ‘I survived Ebola’ to reach ‘We survived Ebola.’”

Join the new #ISurvivedEbola campaign on Facebook and follow @SurvivedEbola on Twitter.

Read More:

A look at the worst-ever Ebola epidemic by numbers
Could Ebola survivors' blood be the cure?
Efforts to combat Ebola in Liberia proving successful

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