Kategorie-Archiv: administrativ

Despite Ebola: Schools re-open in Sierra Leone

On the 14th April, schools reopened in Sierra Leone. For the first time since I arrived in November I see on my way to work lots of children in colourful school uniforms on the streets. According to the media it’s 1.7 million children countrywide, approximately 35% of the population.

I chatted a bit with my national colleagues, almost all of them are parents themselves, to find out how the “Ebola-safe” school opening is organized. Three staff member, mostly cleaners or guards, were trained to measure the temperature of the children and how to mix the chlorine solution for hand washing. Every morning they follow the same procedure as at our office door: Thermometer ready and hands under water.

SchulePrimary school in John Obey.

In case a child is found to have a high body temperature, it is moved to a special isolation room. If the state of the child is not getting better, the school will contact the Ebola emergency line 117. Until the present day, that was luckily never necessary. I heard in Makeni, the capital city of the province Bombali, they had to isolate 2 children. However, soon it turned out that they were harmless.

Usually the school year in Sierra Leone started in September and went until June / July. In the rainy season they had holidays. Considering that 2/3 of the school year already passed the government “moved” the school year from April to December. At least that’s what I heard. The government further announced that there will be no tuition fees for the next 2 years – as an incentive to make sure that all children are indeed going back to school. I just hope this decision doesn’t mean less or lower salaries to teachers or less equipment for schools…

Of course I also asked my colleagues if their children were looking forward to go to school again: All of them answered with a clear YES. They said their children found it extremely boring to sit at home. Understandable, after 8 months in a row.

Welthungerhilfe supported the re-opening of schools in Freetown with the provision of hand wash stations, chlorine and soap.

 

Julia Broska

Julia arbeitet für die Welthungerhilfe im Projektmanagement in Sierra Leone. Sie beschreibt in diesem Blog ihre persönlichen Eindrücke. Ihre Meinung muss sich nicht mit der der Welthungerhilfe decken. Bevor Julia nach Sierra Leone kam war sie in Nord Korea im Einsatz. Sie schreibt auch Artikel für den offiziellen Blog der Welthungerhilfe

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3 days lockdown in Freetown

Within the framework of the “Zero Ebola Campaign” the sierra-leonean government, or rather the “NERC” (National Ebola Response Committee), announced a three days lockdown. During the lockdown it is foreseen to do house-to-house checks for sick people who will then immediately be transferred to a treatment centre. The objective is to identify ALL sick people countrywide and to finally get to 0 new cases. The campaign will run for several weeks. It was announced already that in April more locked down weekends are planned.
What does that mean to me as a humanitarian aid worker? Of course, UN, government and NGOs enjoy exceptions. It was announced that a special passport will be necessary for free movement during the lockdown and this passport I received from my employer. Nevertheless, such a lockdown requires certain ahead-planning. Storing enough food for three days in the tropics without electricity? Not easy, if you want to eat something else than cookies. Here a picture of my groceries:

In the WHH Ebola Response WhatsApp Group interesting advice was circulated, for instance this nice compilation here:

Friday, day 1: I regarded this day as a normal working day and went to the office early in the morning. I’ve never before travelled so quickly from my house to the office, I think it took me less than 10 min, compared to usually 25 min. The traffic in Freetown is a nightmare, especially at roundabouts, and you waste a lot of time in the traffic usually. In the office it was nice and quiet, because most colleagues stayed at home. It was perfect to work through long pending documents. It was nice, indeed!

Saturday and Sunday, day 2 and 3: I stayed at home as required by a lockdown. It was a good opportunity to observe how the local people pass their time during a lockdown. Children were playing ball games in hidden corners. Teenager were sitting on the stairs in front of their houses to have a chat. One woman put a chair in front of her door and braided the hair of almost the whole of the female neighbourhood.

All in all the lockdown was a positive experience from my perspective. I had a quiet working space and a weekend at home is not bad to calm down from the busy day-to-day life. Whether the lockdown contributed positively to the fight against Ebola, I do not know.

This article is a translation of the original German Article by Julia

Julia Broska

Julia arbeitet für die Welthungerhilfe im Projektmanagement in Sierra Leone. Sie beschreibt in diesem Blog ihre persönlichen Eindrücke. Ihre Meinung muss sich nicht mit der der Welthungerhilfe decken. Bevor Julia nach Sierra Leone kam war sie in Nord Korea im Einsatz. Sie schreibt auch Artikel für den offiziellen Blog der Welthungerhilfe

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Rescued and forgotten?

By now there are several thousand people which have been cured from Ebola and have been released from hospitals. Here they are called survivors. But how does the live of a survivor proceed?

Survivor Abie Forna, age 35, with her husband
Survivor Abie Forna, age 35, with her husband By User:JuliaBroska [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

At the moment of leaving the hospital they should obtain an official certificate which states they are healthy. Additionally they should receive a packet with vitamins and medicine to strengthen their body. At least in theory. Personally I have met survivors which did not receive any of the above. Often they still have been very weak. I do not know how much time it will take to completely recover. This will probably also depend from various things such as the individual constitution of the patient, age, history of diseases, and more… In fact I have even heard that for a healthy person who receives quick help the chances of surviving Ebola are not so bad after all. Since in many cases the victims are poor, living in precarious hygienic conditions and often were not previously in good health, even quick help will not be enough.

In addition survivors often return to very difficult family relationships. Often other family members are ill or even dead. Frequently that includes the head of household and breadwinner. Families were also at least 21 days under quarantine and have consequentially lost all their earnings. Theoretically also post-quarantine households should receive a supportive food package but so far it seems to happen only on rare occasions. And from a food package alone people will not get a new job.

According to the NGO „Médecins sans Frontières‘ (MSF) about 30 people have survived the infection by the Ebola Virus in Guinea. They try to keep themselves and their fate in the background. Because if their story would be known, they and their families would face exclusion, expulsion and attacks.

In short, the survivors are celebrated as heroes on paper but in practice they are abandoned. A few local NGOs have taken initiatives to involve survivors in awareness campaigns. I welcome this very good initiatives personally. Rene raised the question during an interview with me if survivors are immune to Ebola. Meanwhile, I have the answer: Yes, they are immune! This means there is great potential to involve survivors in nursing care.

Happy are those who have defeated the aggressive and dangerous viral disease without serum. Among them the willingness is great to help others, so Charbonneau. This is especially true for people who have some form of a medical background. „These people are very interested to contribute their knowledge and communicate. This is a very big opportunity, „says Charbonneau. „You could, for example, help orphans or children who are still in hospitals and are under quarantine.

The Welthungerhilfe has launched its first project which involves the reintegration of survivors funded by the german Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. They deserve better than to be forgotten.

Philippe

Philippe translates Julias articles to English language so that more people can have access to her reports and information.

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So what actually is the problem?

I wish there would be an easy answer to that question. An answer that I could give to both sides. To people in Germany who are wondering why the Ebola epidemic now remains undefeated for months. And to the people of Sierra Leone in particular. A simple answer that can be conveyed in a sentence.

But this answer does not exist. The problem is too complex . Actually, everything in the combination of „Extreme poverty – Ebola – West Africa“ is a problem. Just to give a few clues here is my brainstorm:

The number of trained Sierra Leonean doctors is tiny ( I guess less than 50 nationwide ) . The hygienic conditions are bad, many people share simple toilet facilities. At the beginning of the outbreak people did not believe the government as the relationship between government and people is bad, there is no trust. There are too few foreign doctors willing to come. The German media describe Ebola as uncontrollable, which is wrong and only stokes fear. Sierra Leone is a high risk country for malaria. Ebola initially has the same symptoms as malaria and is therefore often denied. Local burial rituals include the washing of the dead, which is an activity that puts family members at high risk contracting Ebola as well. The local culture is strongly related to body contact, the people are very close to each other. In Sierra Leone, guests will never be rejected, the people are very hospitable. The international reaction came too late and too slow. Too many NGOs and UN organizations are circling around coordination, while at the bottom little is going on. Too many resources go into treatment rather than primarily focusing on prevention and containing the spreading of Ebola. This problem is actually well known from HIV. See William Easterly

„The White Man’s Burden“

There were unfortunately a number of other disasters this year, additional to Ebola, so the media interest was quickly gone.

That is what I think in 5 minutes after a month of working in Sierra Leone. Once again the fair question rises what the individual can do, yes, what a single NGO can reach.
But there is fortunately a simple answer: Damn much.

For four weeks I worked every single day as project administrator for the German Welthungerhilfe in Freetown. The administrative effort for donations and donor funds, as for instance money from the German government, is enormous.

Welthungerhilfe brings food packets to the people affected by Ebola in John Obey in Sierra Leone. By User:JuliaBroska [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

To put the local auxiliaries in a position to provide locally soap, chlorine, educational materials, food packages for households under quarantine, we need to capture every single step in writing.  We are just starting a project in which 33,000 household kits will be distributed. This means 33,000 signed delivery notes. In the end, everything has to fit together: it must have been bought exactly what has arrived at the warehouse. The same number of household kits must leave the warehouse as reaches the local beneficiaries. Sometimes I wonder if that is part of the solution or part of the problem. But all that has emerged from the debate about accountability of humanitarian aid. But that is another story that I will tell another time.

This article is an English translation of Julias original article in German language.

Philippe

Philippe translates Julias articles to English language so that more people can have access to her reports and information.

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Your home is your prison

People within households with a confirmed Ebola case must not leave their house for 21 days. That is the Ebola incubation period. Only if no other household member becomes ill within 21 days, all will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

I want you to imagine that. 21 days inside the house. Day and night. Together with the whole family, mostly confined space. The house is marked with a ribbon, this line must not passed by anyone, neither from inside, nor from outside.

  • What do you eat?
  • What do you drink?
  • How do you buy coffee, cigarettes, mobile top-up?
  • How do you get water to wash clothes?
  • Where do you get charcoal for cooking?
  • And most importantly – How can you earn your living?

photo by User:JuliaBroska [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Local resident in quarantine.
By User:JuliaBroska [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
At the beginning of the Ebola epidemic it was the government’s strategy, to put entire villages under quarantine. The villages were completely sealed off from outside, but the villagers were able to move freely within the village. The result: An extremely high rate of infection within entire communities. A single case of Ebola could lead to the death of two-digit numbers of villagers. The Welthungerhilfe objected to it in the first place and campaigned for household quarantine. The advantage is that a small group of actual contact persons cannot infect a whole village. The disadvantage is that it is much more costly to identify and seal off individuals. Nevertheless, otherwise it will not work.

We bring a package of food, drinking water and hygiene products to each family in quarantine every week. Neighbours have an integral part in the success of the quarantine period as they have to care for everything else. Money and goods are put on the red line. Three meters back from the line is the safety gap for every interchange. Sometimes I wonder how that would work actually in Germany. Amazon would probably would make the deal of the millennium…

But people need more than just food and water. Humans are social beings. People need tasks and employment. People need solace after the loss of relatives. A perspective. Hope.

This article is a direct translation of the source article by Julia:
http://ebola-in-sierra-leone.de/quarantaene-nach-ebola-fall-21-tage-gefaengnis-im-eigenheim

Philippe

Philippe translates Julias articles to English language so that more people can have access to her reports and information.

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