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Ebola Outbreak Appeal - 12 months on

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One year ago, Ebola looked like a crisis that would engulf West Africa. Today, we are down to a handful of cases - and no new cases reported in Sierra Leone this week.

What an incredible achievement. And if you're reading this, your generosity made it possible.

How we fought Ebola

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With heroes

Ten thousand local heroes volunteered with Red Cross to fight Ebola in the communities. We supported them with specialist Australian aid workers.

With compassion

Fear of Ebola made people hide their sickness or abandon their dead by the roadside. So we brought compassion into every aspect of our response: from the care given to patients to the way our volunteers would accompany survivors back to their communities, to let people know they were no longer infectious.

With knowledge

Volunteers went door-to-door to give people information. They made posters, videos and radio programs. They collected data on new cases and high-risk areas.

Stories from the fight

'Baby Fartoma, she was our hope'

The story of the last child to enter the Ebola treatment centre in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

Fartoma's mother, who tested positive for Ebola, was not able to touch her two-day-old child for fear of infection.

"Baby Fartoma came in at two days old with her mum. Because mum was a possible Ebola case, she couldn't touch her baby and couldn't breastfeed. After a day, mum died and baby Fartoma became quite sick with a temperature of 41 degrees. We were feeding her hourly.

"Baby Fartoma, she was our hope. On the night she got a fever, the staff spent all night singing to her: she got a Mandi song, a Finnish song, an Aussie song, a German song - depending on who was there with her. The next morning, she was still alive and got stronger and stronger.

"She was discharged on day four. We gave her a bath (with more singing) and then her dad and auntie came and took her home.

"One day she just may be the President of Sierra Leone. She is here for a reason: we don't know why but one day we will see."

Treating Ebola's dead with dignity

Because the corpses of Ebola victims remain infectious, funerals became a major source of transmission. Red Cross volunteers like Aminata Alie played a vital role in containing the outbreak by providing safe and dignified burials.

Aminata Alie has been volunteering with Red Cross since she was in school.

Having never seen a dead body, it took incredible courage for Aminata to join the burial teams. Clad head-to-toe in protective clothing, her role was to wash and prepare the bodies of women and girls for their final rest.

She recalls her worst day on the job: "The scene was so grim that I can never forget it. It was a woman who died with her child during labour. The labour room door was shut by the nurses and the corpse was left naked. I had to go in to help prepare my fellow woman for burial."

The Red Cross burial teams showed the power of humanity in action: young people taking on hard and often thankless work to serve their communities.

Aminata has no regrets. "Volunteering with the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society to fight Ebola has made me strong as I have seen and touched so many dead corpses with protective clothing to help save my people."

Full precautions taken, but anxiety remains

Sue Ellen Kovack reported to Cairns hospital's emergency department with a fever in October 2014, two days after returning from Sierra Leone.

Sue Ellen Kovack talks with a young Ebola survivor who was discharged from the treatment centre after her recovery.

Sue Ellen had spent a month at the Ebola treatment centre in Kenema, at the height of the outbreak. She would don a full protective suit several times a day, working in hour-long rotations due to the extreme heat.

On her return, she followed the procedure for all Red Cross personnel: a 21-day isolation period with mandatory reporting of any possible symptoms. And though she had been diligent in her safety procedures, she couldn't help but feel anxious when her temperature spiked.

"I just told myself, 'You can't have Ebola'," she later said to The Australian newspaper. "I had to believe it was only a cold or something. The alternative was too terrible to think about.''

Her instincts were right - it was a simple fever. When she left Cairns hospital, she was overwhelmed by the public messages of support from the Australian community.

"It's been so inspiring and it's really kept me going," she said on her discharge. "I'm sending a message to my fellow medical professionals who are thinking about heading over to treat the sick and work at bringing Ebola under control: please, please do it."

Meet the Ebola fighters

Ten thousand people joined the fight, all from the places hit hardest by Ebola. Meet four of them.

"I fight Ebola because it's my Guinean brothers and sisters who are suffering. It's my duty to do it."
Noel, Red Cross nurse, Guinea
"Surviving Ebola gave me the chance to do all that I've not had the time to do yet. And I will start by telling everybody that Ebola is real and we can survive it."
Mamady Camara, Ebola survivor, Guinea
"We can fight this invisible disease called Ebola with love. Love can't be seen, but it can be expressed with determination and commitment in what we do every day."
Frances N Johnson, Red Cross volunteer, Liberia
"Numbers don't show what Ebola is doing. I have seen dead people, orphans, listened to fear and rumours. But I've seen Red Cross volunteers getting the trust of communities. With trust we convince them that Ebola is real and they can win."
Amanda McClelland, Red Cross senior health officer, Sierra Leone

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