With Liberia only days away from being declared Ebola-free, the focus is now shifting to the need to rehabilitate survivors of the deadly virus, which since last year has claimed thousands of lives.

"Most survivors lost their families and are now stigmatized," Maurice Lankah, emergency protection coordinator for the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), told The Anadolu Agency.

"Many of the survivors' personal belongings, clothes, mattresses – everything they had – were burnt when Ebola teams disinfected their homes after they came down with the virus," he said.

The DRC, a humanitarian NGO that operates in more than 30 countries worldwide, is now providing at least 70 Ebola survivors with training on how to manufacture soap and pastry, along with $200 economic reintegration kits.

The package is meant to help survivors start their own modest businesses.

Those making pastry are given flower, sugar and butter, while those with soap-making skills are given caustic soda and oil.

The initiative is targeting people in Liberia's northern Nimba County, one of the areas hardest-hit by Ebola, although the NGO hopes to expand it into other parts of the country as well.

"Ebola has many negative economic effects on survivors. So after we train them, we give them resettlement packages to start their own businesses making soap or making their own bread," Lankah told AA.

"The first batch of program graduates are all doing well and now have incomes," he asserted.

Liberia's first case of the deadly virus was reported on March 24 of last year in Lofa County.

Since then, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed nearly 10,899 people, mostly in West Africa, according to an April 29 World Health Organization (WHO) status report.

In Liberia alone, the virus has claimed at least 4,608 lives.

If no fresh cases are reported in the country by May 9, Liberia is set to be declared Ebola-free by the WHO.

Picking up lives

Nearly 1,540 Liberians survived Ebola infections, although many of them lost everything they owned in the process.

"When I came back to my community they stigmatized me," Linda Saye, a 31-year-old Ebola survivor, told AA.

"Some days I had no food to eat," she said. "But with the training and money from the DRC, I'm starting to forget the bad things Ebola did to me."

"Now I have my own money. I don't have to wait for community people to give me food to eat, or worry about the next day," a smiling Saye added. 

Among the first batch of graduates to benefit from the pastry-making training, she now has the skills to make different kinds of bread and cakes. 

For 27-year-old Ebola survivor Cynthia Yardolo, the acquisition of new skills gave her fresh hope.

"I lost my husband and several other members of my family," she told AA.

"My husband had supported the family, so the DRC's help allowed me to put bread on the table," said a grateful Yardolo.

She added: "If the DRC hadn't come to our rescue, I don't know what would have become of me."

Anadolu Agency