Moses Goi lost his mother, father, two siblings and an uncle. Mansan Sheriff lost her husband, all three of her children and four brothers. Lorpu Killie has been orphaned and is caring for other orphans as well. And Dudu Kromah lost 13 family members.
Goi, Sheriff, Killie and Kromah — while simultaneously coping with the loss of various family members — have something else in common too. All four survived the deadly Ebola virus that erupted in Liberia during the world’s worst epidemic of the disease in West Africa last year.
While the epidemic remains widespread in Sierra Leone and Guinea, Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May. But the country, which saw more deaths than any other at more than 4,800, is far from healed.
“You have thousands of survivors who have lost entire families,” said Emmet Murphy, a San Francisco native who runs the company Nile Point that provides food security strategy and technology consulting to nonprofit organizations in developing countries. “There’s not a lot of help for them. The spotlight has gone off Liberia now.”
That’s why Murphy has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help Ebola survivors rebuild their lives. As of Wednesday, the site had raised more than $1,400.
The money will go specifically to a handful of Ebola survivors featured in a video on the site to help them pay for rent, school fees and seed money to restart businesses, among other needs. Anything that touched the virus — sheets, clothes and towels, for instance — must be burned, meaning survivors in many cases lose all of their belongings.
Murphy briefly witnessed the beginning of the Ebola outbreak when he visited Liberia in May and June 2014 on an unrelated trip to help develop a food strategy in Monrovia, the country’s capital. There were some 50 Ebola cases in Liberia at the time.
But Murphy, through friends, kept up with the devastation that ensued in what he described as a “widespread panic.” In August and September 2014, the peak of transmission, Liberia was reporting 300 to 400 new cases every week, according to the World Health Organization.
“People were not going out, they were not shaking their neighbors’ hands, there was a lack of treatment centers,” Murphy explained. The outbreak began to subside in October 2014, with cases dwindling until the last patient was diagnosed in late March.
While the U.S. has spent more than $330 million on direct support for West Africa to help care for Ebola patients, Murphy said much is still needed to help those whose lives have been forever altered.