VSO and fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone
“By the look of things it seems Sierra Leone will defeat the Ebola virus...there is significant improvement in infection rate, and communities are very alert of the physical signs of Ebola and continue to [be] informed on preventative care.”
Edward Koroma, Programme Support Health Officer VSO Sierra Leone
VSO has worked in Sierra Leone for 50 years, and over that time we have established ourselves within local communities as well as forged strong relationships with government departments. While we’re not a disaster response agency or a humanitarian relief organisation, through our strong, local networks we have been helping the fight against Ebola.
Since the Ebola outbreak VSO has been working with our international colleagues and partners to offer whatever support we can. Our Sierra Leone team is part of the Ebola task force committee at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and we have developed a programme focusing on community mobilisation and support for health care workers. We are also supporting the Ministry of Health to ensure the long term impact of Ebola is minimised in maternal, newborn and child health.
Donations from supporters have allowed us to build upon these unique and long-established networks to:
• Support ministry, local institutions and health facilities to raise the quality of service provided by over 400 health workers. Families in the worst-affected areas are now receiving life-saving healthcare and support. We have placed particular emphasis on providing improved access to emergency and essential care for mothers and babies. As a result, immunisations and safe deliveries at health facilities across Sierra Leone are increasing; preventing mothers and children from dying needlessly.
• Reach over 150,000 people across Sierra Leone’s hardest hit areas, building and strengthening community resilience against Ebola. Thanks to the crisis response of our donors, we have helped train, supervise and support local community groups across all of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts. Consisting of local health workers, these groups work to mobilise local communities, raising critical awareness of Ebola and fostering a greater understanding of how to prevent the virus from spreading. By using local media – such as radio stations and newspapers – they have been able to reach entire communities, enhancing participation to fight Ebola.
• Form unique partnerships to foster positive practices around the use of water and sanitation To strengthen the fight against Ebola, we have teamed up with WaterAid, with a focus on reducing infection rates by improving infection prevention measures at healthcare clinics, schools and households. This partnership will tackle one of the major causes of Ebola-related deaths right at its source, and provide education that will support the submission of Ebola long into the future.
These initiatives will ensure our long-established networks continue to strengthen and empower communities in Sierra Leone, giving them the training, knowledge and support they need to beat Ebola.
Physical barriers to infection
Midwives and nurses in Bombali district wear newly provided protective clothing. Simple measures like this not only reduce infection rates, but increase people’s trust in the health service.
More and more women are now getting essential healthcare
When Ebola first struck Sierra Leone, health facilities such as this were deserted. However, because of community awareness efforts by social mobilisation committees, over 10,000 women have since visited health facilities seeking safe deliveries and child immunisations.
Once deserted streets are now open for business
Left: when Ebola first hit the country, businesses closed. This picture shows a usually busy garage in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city. Right: two young boys use community hand-washing facilities. Simple measures such as this help fight the spread of Ebola, and indicate just how far communities have come in overcoming their fear of the virus.
Volunteering in Sierra Leone
VSO is committed to Sierra Leone - and we want to keep doing what we do best - building local capacity and long term resilience, not only to respond to the immediate crisis, but also to bolster communities’ capacity to detect future outbreaks earlier, and to coordinate and respond more effectively when public health emergencies occur.
We are working with the international disaster relief community to source expert international volunteers as well as mobilising our national volunteers. These community and national volunteers are critical if we are to establish a lasting human resource of trained individuals who understand the local context and can provide surge capacity when needed.
Make a donation to support our work in West Africa
VSO is also appealing for funds for our work in the region. Every gift will make a big difference. You can make a donation online now or by calling us on +44 (0)20 8780 7500.
Every penny raised will go to preventing the further spread of this disease as well as supporting the families and the communities affected.