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Recent Outbreaks: Mobile App changing the face of Ebola

In the first-ever message sent via the mobile app, Camara "Fanta" Fantaoulen of Guinea 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, Fanta 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.

The #ISurvivedEbola campaign 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 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 for Ebola relief.

"The mobile app really changes the face of this campaign by empowering the people of West Africa to share stories about Ebola and survivorship with each other and the world. 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. 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 website GlobalGiving. Campaign staff expect survivors in all three countries to begin using the app within two weeks.

"While 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," said 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."

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