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Girl shrugs off criticisms to assist Ebola survivors

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 17:43

Haja (16) Consider Lane at Calaba Town in the Western Urban District of Freetown, who is an ActionAid sponsored child, has had to fight resistance within her community to help families affected by the deadly Ebola Virus.

Haja, who is doing Senior Secondary School in 2015, has been an ActionAid sponsored child since she was in primary school. The ActionAid child sponsorship programme, which is one of the organisation’s fundraising mechanisms, links children with international sponsors who support the sponsored child’s communities with funds to do various programmes on education, health, livelihoods and women and girls breaking the cycle of poverty and gender-based violence. ActionAid has supported 1136 sponsored children in Freetown and about 7000 sponsored children in the seven districts the organisation is working in.  

Haja, who lives with her father and two siblings, has been affected by the Ebola Virus although she has not lost any members of her family. “My friend in my film class succumbed to Ebola last year and I do not want to lose any more people who are close to me,”” she said.  She has been driven by the loss of her friend and a strong passion to help people living in difficult circumstances, something she says she owes it to ActionAid, which has provided capacity building to her in various areas in her life.

ActionAid has built classroom blocks, provided school learning materials such as exercise books, rulers and food at schools in my community. To plough back to the community, I became a community mobiliser when Ebola struck Sierra Leone in May 2014.

“My work as a community mobiliser has not been easy as my family members and some of my friends discouraged me saying I will contract the disease by getting close to survivors of the Ebola virus.  ActionAid trained me on how to provide awareness raising on Ebola within my community, Haja said.”

ActionAid has trained 180 community volunteers including Haja in the Western Urban District of Freetown to raise awareness on Ebola prevention. The organisation has trained a total of 1600 community volunteers in the seven districts where it is working.  

Haja, who wants to be a part time film actor in future and a full time accountant when she finishes school,  said she has helped an estimated 250 people within her community by teaching them the importance of avoiding body contact, washing hands regularly and encouraging them not to wash dead bodies.

It is possible to get rid of Ebola in the country, but I am worried that people are going to relax following the lifting of some of the emergency restrictions by the President on 6 August 2015. I think the ban on movement should only be put in place after we have reported ZERO cases of Ebola for three months nationally, Haja said.

In August 2014, the government declared a National State of Emergency as the country was confronted with an Ebola outbreak on an unprecedented scale.  The deadly disease has claimed 3585 people in Sierra Leone since the outbreak in 2014.  Sierra Leone President, Earnest Bai Koroma on 6 August 2015 said the government had decided to lift some of the restrictions after realising that the country’s Ebola response efforts were nearing achieving the ZERO infections a day campaign. 

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.