Liberia's Ebola widows learn to become the new breadwinners

Tue Feb 9, 2016 1:00pm EST
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By James Harding Giahyue

MONTSERRADO, Liberia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Huddled together in the bedroom of their mud-brick home in rural Liberia, Marthaline Sweet's children stare at her hungrily as she picks up her one-month-old baby.

Sweet, an Ebola survivor and mother of five, chokes back tears as she recalls contemplating an abortion after the virus killed her husband - leaving her alone to fend for their children.

"We don't have a good home, we have no food and we must beg other people for help," Sweet said, gazing at the railroad that runs past her village in Liberia's central Grand Bassa County.

"We are really suffering - we are slowly dying," said the 39-year-old, gently rocking her baby girl back and forth.

Sweet is one of thousands of women in Liberia mourning the loss of their loved ones to the world's worst Ebola outbreak, which has infected 28,000 people and killed 11,300 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since December 2013.

Liberia, the hardest-hit nation with 4,800 deaths, was declared Ebola-free for a third time last month.

As the West African country begins to recover from the crisis, many women like Sweet are struggling to face a future without their husbands or fathers - the main breadwinners in their families.

About half of Liberia's 6,000 Ebola survivors are women. Besides financial hardships, many must also endure rejection from their friends, families and communities.   Continued...

Nameplates are seen at a cemetery for victims of Ebola virus in Suakoko, Liberia, March 11, 2015.  REUTERS/James Giahyue