The lullaby singers who bring a human touch to Ebola babies

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Ebola survivor cares for baby. Photo courtesy of UNICEF.

For a child hermetically sealed in a bio-secure unit, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola treatment centres are a terrifying place to be, reports The Daily Telegraph. However, Ebola survivors, known as lullaby singers, are on hand to offer solace, encouragement and – because there is no need for protective garb – a human touch.

So soothing is their presence that such survivors are known as “lullaby singers”. With Ebola being declared a global health emergency last week, nearly a year after it first broke out, they may just hold the key to defeating the disease.

Mwamini Masiki volunteered to be a lullaby singer in January after winning a gruelling-month long battle with the virus that killed her young nephew. Last week she began looking after an unnamed baby boy, delivered in one of bio-secure units at the Ebola treatment centre in Beni, a town in eastern Congo’s North Kivu province that has recorded 321 deaths since the outbreak began last summer.

The baby, just two days old, may or may not have Ebola. His mother contracted the virus when she was six months pregnant and although she recovered the virus may have lingered in her amniotic fluid or placenta.

Still too weak from her ordeal, Mrs Masiki is doing the job for her, soothing and feeding another woman’s child with relentless dedication. “Whether or not he has Ebola, I’m trying to do the best I can to give him a chance,” she said.

Aid workers are increasingly convinced that those who survived the disease could play a vital role in ending the worst outbreak in the country’s history.

The third and perhaps most important role that survivors play is to spread the message that Ebola is a real disease not a conspiracy concocted by westerners and the Congolese government. As a result, few bothered to take the precautions needed to stop the spread of the disease, handling both the sick and the dead with abandon. Treatment centres have been attacked. Seven medical and social workers involved in the fight against Ebola have been killed.

However, the deployment of Ebola survivors charged with going from village to village and tell their stories in the same tribal tongue as their inhabitants is at last having an impact, aid workers say. People are beginning to take the disease more seriously, bringing those showing symptoms to treatment centres and allowing professional health workers to manage funerals.

The Daily Telegraph report

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