Life After Ebola: Lisa Zayza's Story

Life After Ebola: Lisa Zayza's Story

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“In my life, I have never wished for death before like I did when I lost my family. When I was discharged, I didn’t know what to feel; should I be happy that my son and I survived or sad that I lost my husband and two children. I was hurt and confused but I knew that I had to stay strong for my baby.”

“Ma Lisa” is a strong women but Ebola almost broke her.  Her real name is Lisa Zayza, she’s 42-years old, and her family lived in Central Monrovia, Liberia. During the peak of the epidemic  her  husband,  a  nurse  and  sole  provider  for  the family,  was  infected  with Ebola while  caring  for  a patient. Unknowingly, he brought the virus home and infected his wife and their three children.

The entire family stayed in an Ebola Treatment Unit, fighting hard for their lives.  Within two weeks, Lisa’s husband and two of her children died. She and her youngest son, George, survived. Lisa, who was completely dependent on her husband, had now lost his support. So, she turned to her extended family members and neighbors for help. No one responded.

“On top of watching my family suffer and die, people close to me were very unreceptive. It was hard because my husband always managed the household. Now, I had to do all that alone.  I worried about my son…how would he go to school, wear clothes and eat. My head was a mess. I was having nightmares, I walked in my sleep. I thought I was going crazy. There was no one to talk to. No one in the world should suffer like that.”

But then Lisa became a member of a CARE backed Ebola survivor support group. In the group meetings, survivors and affected persons shared their situation with others and realized they were not alone. CARE’s health volunteers and psychosocial officer provided counseling and support. Though initially hesitant to join, Lisa became a regular member. CARE also organized business management training for support group members. At the end of the training, Lisa felt confident enough to borrow L$2,175 ($24USD) and started a business right in her front yard.

At first, she began selling fruits. She generated enough income to add the sale of charcoal.  Lisa is now part of a Village Savings and Loans group in her community.  She has started saving and also received a special small cash grant which she used to further develop her business and save for her son’s future.

“The support really group helped me. I could talk to others who understood how I felt, listen to their stories… they encouraged me. I realized I was not alone. The training gave me the courage, motivation and knowledge to start a small business. Now, I don’t have to beg to pay my son’s school fees. I have enough money to feed him and put him in school again for the second semester. I got my dignity back.”


Public hand washing station at village in Liberia. Staff and community healthcare workers encourage people to consistently wash hands whenever leaving and entering a building or house.