I’m here in Sierra Leone to support our ActionAid colleagues to gather communications materials on our ongoing fight against the deadly Ebola virus. After numerous vaccinations, health checks, 1.5 days of flights from my homeland Zimbabwe via France to Sierra Leone, and a bumpy boat ride from the airport, I finally arrived here in Freetown!
So far so good - I am observing the ABC rule- “Avoid Bodily Contact”. As counter-cultural as it may be for me, I however, will be sticking to my security procedures and avoiding bodily contact.
On arrival at the ActionAid Sierra Leone office, I could see all the security procedures in place - I met staff members warmly, but of course, I did not hug them. They checked my temperature, which was about 36.5 degrees, and at the entrance there was a bucket of water and detergent, and even on my allocated desk there was a little bottle of sanitiser. So I shall sanitise until I can sanitise no more!
Here in Sierra Leone, the fight to eradicate Ebola continues. The National Ebola Response Centre latest daily updates reported ZERO cases of Ebola in the last week. People however remain cautious despite the reduction in the number of cases in a day. Since the outbreak began well over a year ago, there have been a total of 8695 confirmed cases, 3585 confirmed deaths and 4043 confirmed discharged cases. ActionAid has been working with the government in the Operation Northern Push to get Sierra Leone to ZERO infections. The Operation Northern Push is a campaign being spearheaded by the government of Sierra Leone in partnership with non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders in a bid to eradicate Ebola. ActionAid has been implementing various Ebola response programmes with 1600 trained community volunteers to raise awareness on Ebola prevention in seven districts where we are working.
Some of our programmes on Ebola response include organising training for volunteers, mothers clubs, youth groups, religious and traditional leaders on Ebola prevention, care and safe burial. Women have played an instrumental role in their homes and communities in stopping the spread of the virus.
ActionAid has also been engaged in providing much needed household items for homes affected by Ebola such as foam rubber beds, bedsheets, pillows and sanitary towels. We have also implemented social mobilization and health promotion, training of partners, staff and communities to make sure that everyone knows how to protect themselves from Ebola and where to go for help. We have also provided water and sanitation materials to promote hand washing programmes in schools, provided psychosocial training for contact tracers and community mobilizers, women groups, rural healthcare service providers and female teachers in ActionAid sponsorship communities. In order to address the significant trauma caused by the prolonged and aggressive outbreak, we have also trained 175 people in the seven ActionAid operational districts to provide psychosocial support for orphans and pregnant teenage girls during the Ebola outbreak.
We have also collaborated with the Ministry of Social Welfare to support orphans and vulnerable children with food and non-food items including toiletries and clothes during the emergency, provided food for quarantine families who were struggling to feed their families, and supported orphans and vulnerable children in schools with teaching and learning materials.
A total of 265,210 people have been supported by ActionAid between June 2014 and May 2015 as part of the Ebola response programme. I am now eagerly waiting for my first field visit to hear the untold stories of the communities we are working with.