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Hope amidst Ebola despair

Eleven-year-old Kalie* ran into her mother's arms with a smile that would light up a city at night. She had just been declared free of Ebola after many days at death's door.

Australian aid worker, Sue Ellen Kovack helped nurse Kalie at a Red Cross Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone. Kalie had lost her father and siblings, but there was joy when she left the centre. "We had a 'happy shower', which means the Ebola survivors get chlorine and soap-and-water showers," Sue Ellen says. "Then she put on a beautiful new dress and she was released. Many gathered and there was song and dance."

Survivors like Kalie give hope that, even without a cure, people can recover from Ebola with the right supportive care. But aid worker Libby Bowell, one of several Australian Red Cross specialist workers sent to contain the outbreak, tells a grimmer story. In some areas of the Liberian capital of Monrovia, up to nine of every 10 people with Ebola will die, she says. Well over 7,000 people have died across West Africa.

This outbreak is the worst in history and has sparked a humanitarian crisis in the region. In its wake, villages have been abandoned, hospitals stretched beyond capacity and schools closed. Economies are on the brink of collapse and thousands of children have been orphaned.

Libby recently returned to Australia after five weeks supporting families and educating them on how best to protect themselves from Ebola. Red Cross volunteers undertake the majority of Ebola burials in Liberia and Guinea, and Libby helped teams to safely bury patients who passed away. "It's hot, difficult work for the volunteers in full protective equipment, covered from head to toe," Libby says.

More than 4,200 local volunteers have signed up with Red Cross to help their communities survive Ebola. "The volunteers and staff of Liberian Red Cross are real heroes," Libby says.

With your support,thousands of volunteers and aid workers are doing all they can to save lives, like Kalie's.

* Names have been changed to protect the privacy of children and their families.

Photo: Katherine Mueller/IFRC