Liberia: With Seven Dead, Ebola-hit Family Hopes Worst Is Over

The Stewart family, which lives in a village in central Liberia, lost seven of its members to Ebola in just nine weeks. The two remaining adults - two sisters - are hoping that the rest of their family will be spared. They, like other survivors across the country, are receiving WFP food assistance to help them through the crisis.

In August, Siatta’s mother was the first of her family to die of the Ebola virus. Next was her father, and then the aunt who had come to take care of them. Then her brother passed away, followed by his wife, and their children. Out of 15 people living in the little house in Kakata, in Liberia's Margibi district, seven passed away in just nine weeks. 

“No one has been sick for over a month now,” says Siatta. “So I believe we are going to be safe.”

Siatta Stewart, 30, and her sister Famatta, 32, are the only remaining adults in the family. Together, they have to take care of six children between the ages of four and 16 – their brothers, sisters, and nephews. Before the outbreak started, neither of the sisters had a secure job. Siatta used to help in a school, but now the schools are closed because of Ebola.

They still live in the home where it all happened. Five out of the seven deaths occurred inside the house.

“I don’t know why I did not get sick,” Siatta says.” I took care of them.”

In September, the whole family was taken to the hospital for surveillance. Famatta did come down with Ebola, and survived.  Little Darius, 6, also tested positive. Both his parents and his sister had already died.

Darius, Ebola survivor, Close up

“I told people not to come anywhere near me,” he says. “I did not want them to catch Ebola.” Darius remembers becoming very weak, and that the nurses fed him orange juice and biscuits. Against the odds, he eventually recovered from the often-deadly virus.  Now, he washes his hands all the time, and makes sure other children do the same.

And in the last few weeks, Siatta and Famatta’s lives have taken a dramatic turn, as they now are responsible for the children.

“The rest of the family is gone forever, says Siatta.  “We know they are not coming back. We try to comfort the kids.” 

They are also trying to figure out how they can raise the children of the family, hoping that someday they will be able to get scholarships for them so that they can continue their education.

On November 18, the family went to the local hospital to pick up the food rations WFP gives to Ebola survivors and orphans. They received rice, beans, cereals, and oil – enough to last them for the next month.

As they were ready to leave with the bags, little Darius pulled away from his aunt, running towards the people distributing the food. “Thank you,” he told them.

But because of the rules for Ebola prevention, which include no physical contact between individuals, they could not hug each other good bye.