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Ebola increases burden of care on young woman

Monday, August 24, 2015 - 18:42

At the age of 26, Isatu Jubu of Monkey Bush, Waterloo, Western Area Rural District of Freetown, has to contend with looking after a large family of 10 people who are all survivors of the Ebola virus.

For Isatu, it seems large families follow her as she lost nine other family members who were wiped out by Ebola between August and September 2014. Despite having lost these family members who comprised her step father, brothers and sisters, Isatu has taken over the responsibility of 10 members of the family, who are direct family and extended members, including herself. The 10 are crammed in a three bedroomed house.

As the rural-urban migration, fuelled by lack of basic services and employment opportunities in rural areas, takes peak in Sierra Leone, people have flocked Freetown resulting in the some families in the urban areas taking up extended families and blotting up the number of people in one household.  There are some families which had 30 members prior to the Ebola outbreak and some of these have since been halved by Ebola. However, despite the Ebola outbreak, the number of family members in one household remains high, which has exposed some of the people to disease outbreaks such as cholera and Ebola due to overcrowding and poor sanitary facilities.

Isatu has shelved off the idea of starting her own family now and is a petty trader who sells food items such as vegetables and cooking items. “I have to stay strong for my young sisters and brothers as the older child. I got start-up capital for my small business from my friend after returning from hospital in September 2014. The money I make is just for the food for the family. I get 20 000 Leones (US4.30) in a day,” she said.

Two of Isatu’s school going age sister and brother and two nieces are not in school although the government approved to waive school charges for both primary and secondary school going children in April 2015 when schools reopened after a period of about nine months. “They went to school after schools resumed in April, but they were returned home by the teachers for failure to pay school fees. My biggest challenge is they complain to me and I have told them I cannot afford to pay their school fees,” Isatu said.

Isatu’s family is among some of the members of the community that received food and non-food items from ActionAid as part of the organisation’s response to Ebola which has claimed 3585 people in Sierra Leone since the outbreak in May 2014.  The food items include sardines, luncheon meat, milk, mayonnaise, butter and sugar while the non-food items include toiletries, soap, tooth paste, tooth brushes, bed mattresses, pillows and clothes.

I am grateful to ActionAid for giving us the food items. I am however appealing for programmes that can enable me to pay school fees for the children, Isatu said.

ActionAid plans to introduce early recovery Ebola response programmes which will target Isatu’s family and other Ebola survivors.  The recovery programme will mainly be livelihoods projects such as small scale businesses, soap making and seed provisions for farming, depending on the choice of the communities. The organisation has assisted 103 Ebola survivors in Freetown. 

 ActionAid has facilitated the training of nine nurses on how to look after Ebola patients at two Ebola Community Care Centres in the Western Area Rural District. The Community Care Centres, which have since been decommissioned due to reduction in the Ebola cases, had a carrying capacity of 48 beds. The Community Care Centres were the interim centres for patients before they were referred to major hospitals if found positive. ActionAid also facilitated the training of 20 neighbourhood watch members at the two centres who alerted the clinical staff of any suspected Ebola cases within the community.

ActionAid has supported at total of 265 210 people affected by the Ebola Virus in its seven operational districts in Sierra Leone between June 2014 and May 2015 as part of its Ebola response programme.