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Ebola in Sierra Leone: our response

In response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, we're targeting 3.8 million people across the country with potentially life-saving advice on how to avoid contracting the deadly disease. We're also providing vital disinfectant and medical kits.

Donate nowPlease donate to our disasters and emergencies fund to help us respond to this and other emergencies around the world.

Listen to Sierra Leone Country Manager Jeanne Kamara on how the outbreak is affecting society

Practical help

So far more than 200,000 pairs of disposable gloves have been distributed to medical teams across nine districts.

In addition, our partners provided more than 360kg of powdered chlorine – with the potential to produce 11,600 gallons of diluted liquid chlorine – to disinfect health centres and for hand-washing by medical teams.

Our partners have also trained 900 community health volunteers to conduct door-to-door awareness-raising with key messages on how to prevent Ebola transmission.

They then rolled out the training to a further 9,000 volunteers, enabling them to reach nearly 50,000 households across the country.

A community health volunteer uses a megaphone to give health messages on how to prevent the spread of Ebola   
A community health volunteer, trained by one of our partners in Sierra Leone, uses a megaphone to give health messages on how to prevent the spread of Ebola

Working through partners

Widespread community fear and distrust about the disease and its causes has hampered efforts in Sierra Leone to curb the outbreak.

Our partners are providing information about Ebola to build the confidence of communities and support the response from the Ministry of Health.

We work through the Methodist Church of Sierra Leone (MCSL), Network of people living with HIV (NETHIPS), the SEND foundation, Rehabilitation and Development Agency (RADA) and Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD).

These organisations are reaching out to communities in 10 of the country’s 14 districts through trained volunteers.

We have adapted existing structures, originally set up to deal with HIV, to provide advice, information and support on Ebola.

Volunteers inform communities about basic preventative measures, such as hand washing with soap and water, and encourage them to use local health facilities for early diagnosis and treatment.

  • It’s vital to speak to communities through their local and faith leaders, and our partners who are already trusted.'

Panic and mistrust

Theresa Bagrey, our Senior Programme Officer for community health and HIV in Sierra Leone, explains: 'There is a lot of panic in poor and remote communities.

'They have been confused by mixed messaging and there is a lot of mistrust in the health system.

'It’s vital, therefore, to speak to communities through their local and faith leaders, and our partners who are already trusted, having worked with them on HIV education and livelihoods projects.

'The majority of churches in Sierra Leone are taking the outbreak very seriously and seeing it as part of their responsibility to support the Ministry of Health to enforce preventative education messages about the virus.'

Hear more from Theresa

Challenges

In many remote areas partners are putting up posters, but in some places where illiteracy is high –such as in Kailahun district where the first cases emerged – community radio is also being used to reach people.

Theresa Bagrey adds: ‘This situation is very challenging for our partners as it's the first emergency response they've been involved in.

'The government of Sierra Leone is responding well, but with limited means.

'They are coordinating case management, epidemiology and laboratory surveillance, prevention control communications and psychological support alongside organisations like ours.

'There is a lot of commitment from the President and health workers are putting themselves at risk to treat patients.'

Stigma and families

Stigma is also a problem, and an already familiar obstacle in the fight against HIV. Once a member of a family is diagnosed with Ebola, the whole family is often ostracised by the community.

The culture of extended family in Sierra Leone means people look after their sick relatives, making it difficult to advise people not to touch family members who are ill and encourage them to inform the Ministry of Health immediately.

Women are at greater risk of infection as they are often the primary care givers within the family.

How you can help

Donate nowPlease donate to our disasters and emergencies fund to help us respond to this and other emergencies around the world.


Find out more

Service material: a sermon on the Ebola outbreak

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