The Survivors: Powerful Portraits of the Liberians Who Beat Ebola

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

More than 4,400 people have died from Ebola in West Africa. The World Health Organization has projected as many as 10,000 new cases a week in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of 2014.

While media organizations fixate on the rising death toll in a distant part of the world, there's one group that's being overlooked: the survivors. 

Ebola has a 70% mortality rate, and those who manage to recover are left immune to the disease. But these survivors, like 24-year-old Benetha Coleman, lost family members along the way. Coleman lost her husband and two children to Ebola and contracted the disease while taking care of family members without access to proper protective gear.

To help humanize the overwhelming statistics, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and senior staff photographer at Getty Images, John Moore, visited an Ebola treatment center of the organization Doctors Without Borders in Paynesville, Liberia. At the treatment center, survivors spoke about the brothers, sisters, husbands and wives they lost to the disease. They also spoke of recovery, stigmas they continue to face in their villages and renewed hope.

Sontay Massaley, 37

Sontay Massaley smiles upon her release from the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treatment center on Oct. 12 in Paynesville, Liberia. Massaley, who spent eight days recovering from the disease in the center, said she worked as a vendor in a market before contracting the virus.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

Varney Taylor, 26

Ebola survivor Varney Taylor stands in the low-risk section of the MSF Ebola treatment center after attending a survivors' meeting on Oct. 16 in Paynesville, Liberia. He said he lost three family members to the disease and believes he contracted Ebola while carrying the body of his aunt after her death.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

Anthony Naileh, 46, and Bendu Naileh, 34

Husband and wife Ebola survivors Anthony Naileh and Bendu Naileh stand at the MSF Ebola treatment center after meeting with fellow survivors on Oct. 16 in Paynesville, Liberia. Anthony said he is a stenographer at the Liberian Senate and plans to go back to work for the January session. Bendu, a nurse, said she thought she caught Ebola after laying her hands in prayer on a nephew who had the disease in August. She then sickened her husband, who cared for her.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

James Harris, 29

Ebola survivor James Harris, 29, stands for a portrait before a shift as a nurse's assistant at the MSF Ebola treatment center on October 12 in Paynesville, Liberia. Harris spent two weeks recovering from the disease. The former construction worker said that he believes he caught the disease while caring for his father, who died of Ebola at home. He now counsels others at the treatment center.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

James Mulbah, 2

Ebola survivor James Mulbah, 2, stands with his mother, Tamah Mulbah, 28, who also recovered from Ebola in the low-risk section of the MSF Ebola treatment center after survivors' meeting on October 16 in Paynesville, Liberia.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

Ami Subah, 39

Ebola survivor Ami Subah stands inside the MSF treatment center after meeting with fellow survivors on October 16 in Paynesville, Liberia. Subah, a midwife, said she thinks she caught Ebola when she delivered a baby boy from a sick mother. The boy, she said, survived, but the mother died. She said she has not had work since her recovery, due to the stigma of having had Ebola. "Nobody will even let me draw water from the community well,'" she said.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

Jeremra Cooper, 16

Ebola survivor Jeremra Cooper wipes his face from the heat while in the low-risk section of the MSF Ebola treatment center on October 16 in Paynesville, Liberia. The 8th grade student said he lost six family members to the Ebola epidemic before coming down sick with the disease himself and being sent to the MSF center, where he recovered after one month.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

Lassana Jabeteh, 36

Ebola survivor Lassana Jabeteh, 36, smiles before his shift as a nurse's assistant at the MSF Ebola treatment center on October 12 in Paynesville, Liberia. He said that he previously worked as a taxi driver and that he thinks he caught Ebola when he transported a sick policeman who vomitied in his car on the way to the hospital. MSF hired Jabeteh after he recovered in their treatment center and he now counsels and comforts others stricken by the disease.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

Mohammed Bah, 39

Ebola survivor Mohammed Bah stands at the MSF Ebola treatment center after meeting with fellow survivors on October 16 in Paynesville, Liberia. Bah, who works as a driver, said he lost his wife, mother, father and sister to Ebola. The disease leaves survivors immune to the strain that sicked them. He said he spent a week at the MSF center recovering from the disease. Like many other Ebola survivors, he said that the stigma of having had Ebola as been difficult. 'I've been rejected by everyone. I'm alone with my two children,' he said.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

Benetha Coleman, 24

Ebola survivor Benetha Coleman, 24, stands in the low-risk section of the MSF Ebola treatment center after attending a survivors' meeting on October 16 in Paynesville, Liberia. She said that her husband and two children died due to the disease.
Source: 
John Moore/Getty Images

Recent news of an Ebola-free Senegal brings a bright spot in a global health crisis that has made orphans and widows of many of the survivors. Though Senegal's success is emerging as a model, a consistent response is still much-needed across the region.

According to a WHO draft internal document reported in the Guardian, "nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall." Now that a semblance of recovery is taking in West Africa, the next step may involve seeking justice. Who will the survivors hold accountable for their loss and drastically changed lives?

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Coleen Jose

Coleen Jose is a multimedia journalist and documentary photographer based in New York City writing on international news and U.S. foreign policy for Mic. Previously, she reported across the Philippines for GlobalPost and Scientific American. She has also reported on environmental exploitation as a grantee of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and examines the role of climate change in global security.

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