VSO is extremely concerned about the escalating situation around the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Both the failure to contain the outbreak and the impacts on the longer term social and economic development of the countries affected are combining to place a huge burden on the already stretched services in these countries.
Since the first case was reported in March 2014, VSO followed its established procedures of monitoring the disease closely in all regions and countries affected by Ebola, making decisions on regarding the best course of action for the safety of our volunteers and staff in countries affected by the outbreak.
VSO was active in Sierra Leone at the time of the Ebola outbreak, where we have a presence in 9 out of 14 districts. During the early stages of the outbreak VSO’s long term volunteers working in the health sector in Sierra Leone supported local healthcare workers in planning their response. VSO nurses from Africa and Europe were involved in introducing sterilisation protocols for improving hygiene, disinfection in hospitals and clinics, especially for midwives.
By early August 2014, all international VSO volunteers and staff based in Sierra Leone had to return home as it became increasingly difficult for them to operate from a security perspective. Once the government declared a State of Emergency and flights in and out of the country were suspended, this significantly reduced our ability to carry out our duty of care to our international volunteers and staff.
VSO is committed to responding to the immediate needs of communities as well as the longer term vision of helping Sierra Leone to rebuild its health system so it can meet the ongoing needs for basic health care, particularly in the area of maternal and child health (an area of need and VSO focus before Ebola crisis).
Country operations have remained active and all VSO Sierra Leone Country office staff are working with the remote support of the VSO global network in the following ways;
- As a member of the Ebola task force committee at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS)
- Supporting the Health Education Division with funds to set up/revitalize the 14 district Social Mobilization Committees (MoHS)
- Supporting the Human Resource Directorate (MoHS) with funds to organize meetings/workshops to scale up the pay roll system for health workers
VSO has been operating in Sierra Leone since 1961. The country strategy is anchored around youth and seeks to simultaneously improve access to youth friendly health services, build skills of the young workforce, create job opportunities and influence policies and attitudes that will help young men and women become healthy and active citizens capable of transforming society.
To advance this strategy, we work in four interconnected programme areas and host 40-50 long-term international volunteers, over 20 young volunteers, and over 3,000 national volunteers through our partner network annually.
Getting young people into sustainable jobs is a top priority for the country and a pre-requisite for maintaining peace and promoting pro-poor growth. VSO Sierra Leone agrees with the government assessment that the major barriers to youth employment are both demand and supply driven – job skill development must be linked to market needs. Training and opportunities must be available at community and district levels for greatest effect. This is why VSO works to improve governance and education to help improve livelihoods in Sierra Leone.
VSO will work with local and district councils to strengthen their ability to engage with young people to provide meaningful livelihood opportunities and access to appropriate basic services in education, health and other sectors. At the same time, we will engage with young people in the communities and strengthen their capacity to hold representatives accountable. Women’s voices and issues are of particular importance and VSO Sierra Leone will strive to bring greater gender awareness to all interventions.
Evidence shows that education attainment levels in young people are closely linked to unemployment and health behaviours and attitudes, therefore it is important to treat education, livelihoods and healthcare challenges in tandem. VSO works to support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, local government structures, the National Youth Commission and civil society partners to enhance the employability, as well as health and well-being of young men and women for them to be active and productive members of society.
Young people face many health challenges that impair their overall well-being and ability to work, develop their skills and provide for their families. Young women are at particular risk with most women giving birth before they turn 19. Without proper knowledge of sexual and reproductive health issues and life skills, young people are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV and AIDS, as well as pregnancy-related complications and death. VSO Sierra Leone works with the Ministry of Health and the health service providers to provide safe, youth- friendly health facilities, messages and treatment to improve practical access to quality healthcare for young people.
Get in touch with VSO Sierra Leone at:
PO Box 19, Freetown, Sierra Leone
Find out about volunteering
By volunteering abroad with VSO you get to put your skills, energy and personal qualities to work helping people break out of poverty. Interested in volunteering abroad?