By Samuel Sesay, CODOHSAPA
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the most severe outbreak of the disease in history and has now resulted in over 4,960 deaths and 13,268 cases as of November (WHO, Nov. 2014) across the 6 affected countries (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Spain, United States of America). In Sierra Leone, the second hardest hit country, there have been 4,862 cases and 1,130 deaths (WHO, Nov. 2014). The country of Sierra Leone declared a state of public health emergency on 30 July 2014 and plans to continue enforcing three-day lockdown from time to time as part of government effort to reduce the spread of the virus.
The outbreak is affecting development activities, humanitarian programmes, and the healthcare infrastructure throughout the country. It is also inhibiting local and international investments in Sierra Leone. There is a continued lack of trust in external and Government interventions aimed at reducing the transmission of Ebola. The Sierra Leone Federation of Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP S/L) and their support NGO, Centre of Dialogue on Human Settlement and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA), are vital to supporting the Government and other agencies to reduce and ultimately prevent the spread of this outbreak given their position and trust within slum communities across Freetown and other cities. FEDURP has suffered 2 fatalities in the city of Makeni where 2 FEDURP members died of the Ebola virus. One of the fatalities was the first collector from when the Federation process was introduced in Mankeni.
FEDURP Core Team preparing for Ebola sensitisation trainings
Given the continuing impact of Ebola on communities in Freetown and other cities, FEDURP and CODOHSAPA developed an emergency response project together with consultation from other development partners.
105 FEDURP and non-FEDURP community volunteers have been identified and trained, and together they form the Welfare Community Disaster Management Committee on Ebola (WCDMC). These volunteers teamed up with other community stakeholders to establish a community coordinating team (CCT) with the responsibility to enlist community support and cooperation in responding to Ebola.
Margaret Bayoh, a trained and qualified nurse and head of the FEDURP Welfare Committee demonstrates proper hand washing techniques in Makeni
These volunteers and CODOHSAPA programme staff received training conducted by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation on Ebola response pillars (social mobilisation, community sensitisation, surveillance, case management, psychosocial support, and contact tracing) developed by the Government of Sierra Leone through the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), now the National Ebola Response Committee (NERC).
FEDURP and WCDMC volunteers accompanied by officials of the Ministry of Health showcasing the use of personal protective gears such as gloves, facial mask
FEDURP S/L National Chairperson, Yirah O. Conteh, handing over sensitisation equipment to community volunteers to be use in Ebola education
We have customised (with FEDURP, CODOHSAPA, and SDI logos) and produced our own IEC materials from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. These IEC materials are currently being distributed in all areas of Freetown and Makeni as part of our sensitisation exercise in hand washing, avoiding body contact, and safe burial practices.
Veronica hand washing buckets, chlorine, soap, and sanitizers have be provided and strategically placed in key places within target communities and managed by the volunteers.
From the initial target of 37 slum communities in Freetown to roll out this project, 16 slum communities have been reached. The remaining communities are either sealed off (hotspots of Ebola) or are packed with security personnel due to houses being quarantined. In these quarantined or sealed areas only health workers and food distribution team are allowed.
In Makeni, the Federation was hit the hardest when a few FEDURP members lost their lives and some were in quarantine. Currently, Makeni is still under lock down. Therefore, a one-day training session was done and distribution of hand washing materials was given to the communities.
A volunteer demonstrating hand washing during the training in Makeni
The volunteers or peer-educators of WCDMC meet weekly to update CODOHSAPA and the FEDURP core team on the community status and response to the Ebola outbreak in each community. In few new communities, the FEDURP core team has been able to establish new groups during the sensitization trainings.