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Ebola in the German media

Today I want to describe the impression of the Ebola emergency I had from the German media before coming to Sierra Leone and compare this impression with the real situation. I’m not claiming that I’m overseeing the whole media landscape in Germany, nor that I always interpreted the contents correctly. However, I’m consuming German media and that allows me to describe my authentic impression.

This impression was the following: Ebola is spreading in Sierra Leone more and more, because it is a very dangerous infectious disease and highly contagious. Despite enormous funding from abroad, the international community is unable to stop the epidemic. On top of that, the local population is a bit stupid and is not observing the behavioural rules necessary to curb the disease.

Example:

Titelseite Engl 1

Titelseite Engl 2

That reflects more or less what was being communicated from my point of view. The result was, that many of my friends and family considered my wish to get involved in the Ebola response as being risky and even reckless. My aunt wanted to tie me up in the cellar in order to prevent me from leaving, and a friend was insisting that I should not touch any objects in Sierra Leone, because the virus could contaminate anything. Some friends did not know before my departure in November, that Ebola can be transmitted only through body fluids and not through the air like, for example, the flue. After all this journalist work being published in newspapers, radio and TV I’m really wondering what went wrong. While reporting about a more or less unknown sickness, wouldn’t it be most important to try to explain the mode of infection first? Should media not try to communicate this first? Instead, fear was being created, discussions revolved around the question whether or not German citizens are in danger. From my perspective, the German media failed. And that is one of the reasons for this blog.

And just to let you know: To get infected with Ebola requires ignorance of basic hygiene practices and precautions. The government of Sierra Leone was not very strong before Ebola and the emergency state did not exactly improve their ability to perform. Public spending is marginal, especially in disaster prevention and awareness. Foreign funds are spend too much on treatment and research. Many people are illiterate, don’t have radios and are deeply rooted in their traditions. The dangerousness or difficult treatment are only one factor beyond other, more important ones.

This is a translation of my original article in German.

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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Ebola and Lassa fever

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is by far the biggest Ebola epidemic the world has seen so far. Many people wonder why the virus could spread so far here. The Ebola outbreaks in the past in countries like Uganda or Congo could be brought under control much earlier. I’m sure there are many different reasons for this. But one reason which is mentioned again and again, doesn’t seem to hold true: It is claimed that it is the first Ebola outbreak ever in West Africa.

It’s true, it is indeed the first Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. But the border region between Liberia and Sierra Leone is famous for being the hotspot of another virus: Lassa.

Until very recently, I didn’t know anything about Lassa. Incidentally I came across the following paragraph in the book “Chasing the Devil”, written by Tim Butcher:

„Lassa is one of the world’s deadliest diseases and not one to take chances with. It is a viral haemorrhagic fever, similar to ebola, that inflicts a slow and painful death on its victims by destroying blood vessels and causing bodily extremities to swell with excess fluid, like balloons filling with water. In extreme cases blood can gush from nostrils, eye-sockets, ears, even fingernail beds, and victims often die from drowning as their lungs fill with liquid.

What makes lassa so dangerous is that all secreted fluids can carry the virus, so family members, nurses or doctors looking after a victim can easily become contaminated. Entire families can be wiped out and the fatality rate among health workers, especially in the undeveloped world, is often terribly high. When scientists handle the virus in research facilities in the developed world they apply the highest safety standards, known as Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4), wearing sealed suits inside special laboratories where the air is not just filtered but kept at a pressure lower than atmospheric pressure, so that if there is an accidental leak the air inside the chamber cannot readily leak out. If caught early enough – something that requires sophisticated clinical testing – lassa fever is treatable with antiviral drugs, but by the time it is identified in rural areas in Africa, for example, where testing is limited, it is often so advanced that treatment becomes a battle of fluid levels as medics try to stop the patient from bleeding out while at the same time stopping themselves from becoming infected. Kenema lies in the border area between Sierra Leone and Liberia, a region with the unfortunate distinction of being one of the world’s lassa hotspots. It is most commonly spread by infected rats, through urine trails which they have the unsavoury habit of dripping everywhere as they move.”

That sounds very familiar. In both cases, Lassa as well as Ebola, we are talking about a haemorrhagic fever, and both have to be treated with the same high level of security. By all means: Why was nobody in Sierra Leone prepared for Ebola? Knowledge as well as equipment for viral infections like this should have been in the country already!!! Especially considering measures like the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015), which brought disaster preparedness high on the international agenda.

MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) published a report last week and was pointing on similar observations, thereby referring to the last big health crisis, the Cholera epidemic in Haiti:

“The Ebola outbreak has often been described as a perfect storm: a cross-border epidemic in countries with weak public health systems that had never seen Ebola before,” said MSF general director Christopher Stokes.

“Yet this is too convenient an explanation. For the Ebola outbreak to spiral this far out of control required many institutions to fail. And they did, with tragic and avoidable consequences.”

The lessons learned by the WHO from the last international pubic health crisis, the cholera outbreak in Haiti that began in 2010 – were simply ignored and not put in place, says the report.

It is useless to look for one guilty person or agency. But what was missed out after Cholera and Lassa should not be missed out again: To learn from mistakes.

This is a translation of my original article in German.

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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Sex as crime? – Criminalization of Ebola Survivors

Ebola survivors have a problem: At least three months after they are released as being cured, semen and vaginal excretions can contain the Ebola virus. That turns them into a risk factor in the fight against Ebola. They can cause a new outbreak of the virus anytime, even though the fight might seem to be won already. The recent new case in Liberia, after 28 days without new cases, might have been caused by unprotected sex with a survivor. That might or might not be the case. The fact remains that survivors are a real “danger”.

However, from my perspective, the attitude of the Sierra Leonean governments is not leading into the right direction. Last week the front page of the daily newspaper Awareness Times carried the headline: “Ernest Bai Koroma Warns Survivors to Delay Having Sex”. This is a message from his Excellency the president himself. In the article they say that hard measures are to be expected in case a survivor is causing another case of Ebola. And as far as I know at least one person was sentenced to one year in prison already, because he infected a sex worker.

150327 SurvivorSex

From my personal point of view that’s the wrong approach. First, I think it’s unrealistic that survivors abstain from sex for three months. My impression is that at least 2 factors are being overlooked here: 1. The strong human tendency to neglect. Ebola was long considered to be just a rumour sewn by the government to weaken the opposition, and according to my national colleagues, HIV is also being neglected. 2. Sex seems to be considered as an essential “human right”. That is a dangerous combination in times of Ebola.

On top of this, I’m sure that no wife will blackmail her husband if he has to go for one year to jail afterwards! In case the infected person is a sex worker I can imagine that he or she will report to the police. But the own wife or husband will surely not want to lose her or his spouse, especially after just having recovered from a severe illness and potentially being a main contributor to the family’s income. Being punished for sex with the own spouse is just not implementable. How on earth does any lawyer proof that the infection happened during sexual intercourse when the couple concerned is denying it?!

I think it would be better to distribute condoms in high quantities AND to explain how to use them. Best in pictures. Such information material is readily available from HIV campaigns. Of course, the acceptance of condoms is in most African societies not high and Sierra Leone is by no means an exception. But the pressure from Ebola could even being considered as the optimal point in time to raise this acceptance. In any case I believe that the people have to be mobilized, affected people should act, take up responsibility themselves instead of being punished or rewarded from a “higher power”. It doesn’t make sense to put draconian measures in place. Instead, try to seek the consent and voluntarily compliance of the population. But would do I humble aid worker know about politics…

This is a translation of my original article in German.

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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China’s humanitarian aid in the fight against Ebola

In the supermarket I recently came across two helpless Chinese. They wanted to buy cigarettes, but none of them spoke English. That made it difficult to negotiate prices. For me it was a highly welcome opportunity to use my – by now pretty rusty – Mandarin Chinese skills. The two were staff of the “Medical Aid Team of Chinese People’s Liberation Army to Sierra Leone”.

150123 Chinese Army

It was this encounter that made me curious and I tried to collect some information on China’s engagement in the fight against Ebola.

First, I found the following statistics (via VOX):

ebola funds

Regarding the pledged Ebola aid, China lies somewhere in the middle compared to other donor countries. Considering how many funds were disbursed in reality until end of December, China is falling back considerably. Nevertheless, new pledges of China make it onto the front pages of daily newspapers regularly.

150123 Chinese promises 1

150123 Chinese promises 2

The relationship between China and Sierra Leone seems to be not all-well. Sierra Leone belongs to the countries that were affected heavily from land grabbing in the past years. China’s development aid policy is frequently blamed for these processes.

On the other hand, newspapers display positive examples of China’s aid, for instance the support of an orphanage or the funding of awareness raising pages in the newspapers.

150123 Chinese Aid 1

150123 Chinese Aid 2

And the more than 100 million US dollar pledged by China is the highest amount of money ever pledged by the Chinese government for humanitarian aid abroad.

I personally want to point out that I meet very rarely Chinese representatives of aid organisations, donors or the government on meetings. Based on Sierra Leone’s history, the UK are heavily involved here in the aid operations, of course also the U.S. And the largest NGOs involved all have a European or North American back ground. That’s my personal observation. The position of the Chinese government towards development aid remains questionable, Ebola didn’t change this perception.

This is a translation of my original article in German.

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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Ebola and handicapped people

I personally never really thought of this topic and I don’t know much about assistance to handicapped people. Nevertheless I want to write about two interesting events I heard of recently.

On TV I saw a news clip about a local organization for the blind and visually impaired. They had issued an Ebola information leaflet in braille. Even though by now many comics and picture explanations are available to reach the illiterate, doesn’t mean that really everybody is reached. And the blind have a very real risk of contracting Ebola: Many depend on body contact to other people, for instance when they use the services of a personal assistant. This hold true generally for many people with handicaps: They might need assistance in everyday life, and this assistance includes frequently body contact, for example getting assistance with dressing, visiting the bathroom, eating etc. Handicapped people are clearly at risk.

Thomas Alieu, Executive Director of the Educational Centre for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Sierra Leone, says:

“The visually impaired people were feeling very vulnerable in the fight against Ebola, and there was a real sense of loneliness. This was primarily because in the Ebola outbreak, people are encouraged not to touch each other, but for the visually impaired, this makes it very difficult to go about in daily life.”

(Source: http://www.actionaid.org/india/shared/challenges-faced-visually-impaired-fighting-ebola-sierra-leone)

A local caring home for Polio victims send an email to me and asked if Welthungerhilfe would be able to distribute food to the inhabitants. Due to the Ebola crisis the number of staff was reduced to a very minimum and everybody tries to avoid any contact to the outside world in order to keep the inhabitants safe. Therefore it would be of great help if food would not have to be acquired on the market, where it is crowded and body contact can happen accidently.

For me it’s clear now that handicapped people might suffer from lack of access to information and that the sometimes impaired mobility is also creating many different problems. People with handicaps need special attention during project implementation, no matter if it’s an emergency like Ebola or long-term development projects. Everybody should have a chance to participate.

For more information:

http://www.handicap-international.us/ensuring

This article is a translation of the original German article.

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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Julia visiting Germany

2 Weeks ago Julia visited me during her vacation in Germany. 10 days before I met her she was still in Sierra Leone in Freetown. This is the place where the Ebola outbreak is raging most. As I met her it was not clear whether she was infected by the virus or not. Yes there are health checks when entering Germany at the Airport but we all know the incubation time of Ebola is between 2 and 21 days. I was wondering how I would welcome Julia. I decided that I would rely on the two facts that she measures her temperature regularly and that Ebola is only infecting once you can see the symptoms.

Only a few hours before she arrived at my place I had a friend with me who worked for MSF and now for save the children. He informed me again that Ebola is about the most aggressive virus and that many people in the health sector refuse to go to Ebola affected regions because it is just too dangerous. He pointed out that there is an obvious reason that the belongings of infected people are completely burned down. He emphasized that this is not due to the fact that Ebola is only transferred via body fluids. I became insecure again.

We had a long discussion about all the stuff that I have learned from Julias work, this blog, Wikipedia and the reports by print and online media. I couldn’t get the information that I had gathered so far straight in order to make a qualified decision. I think my friend had a very valid point about burning down all the belongings. So could it indeed be possible that Julia was infected but didn’t show symptoms yet and would it be possible that Julia left the virus in my flat without me and her even touching each other?

Suddenly Julia was at my doorstep. I let her come in. I was still not sure if I wanted to touch Julia. By our culture it would have been reasonable to give her a short hug. Only after raising my concerns and having Julia repeating them I felt ashamed and decided to overcome my fear and give her a hug. I was mad at myself. Julia was very patient and did not pressure me. In fact she was very respectful. In fact it was her who taught me through this blog that sticking to customs and cultural habits is one of the worst things during the Ebola outbreak. She frequently described how prevention would be much easier if people would have a better education. So I wonder how it can be possible that I as an educated person who still has doubt about security can act in such an insecure way?

I made pasta and salad for Julia. We decided to also visit a bar. On our way I bought some disinfection spray. I was a little overwhelmed by the big offer of our local department store. Some sprays where only for some flue viruses and many where not supposed to have hand contact. I decided for one of the stronger sprays.

Our time in the bar was interesting. I learnt that Julia didn’t measure her temperature since she was back in Germany. She stated that she new her body and would in particular know if she became sick. Yes I had read these words in this particular blog before but the circumstances have been different. She was clearly in Sierra leone where she had several public health checks per day anyway. Here in Germany I thought her behavior was kind of risky. But she stuck to her point that she was on vacation and in particular happy that she could get a break of constantly measuring temperature. She said that she did not even carry a thermometer with her.

As I returned at my flat I started to disinfect the entire place. I placed the medium on everything that I was aware of had contact with Julia. Even when I only assumed Julia had contact with it it became disinfected. In particular there are the plates, fork, knife and cup that have been used by Julia during dinner. I cleaned the dishes under my shower since I did not want to have the potential virus in my kitchen. I disinfected the dishes another time an placed them on my balcony which so far I did not enter again. Today two weeks later the dishes are still on my balcony. By know I can be sure that Julia was not affected since she is more than 20 days out of Sierra Leone. But I will give myself a buffer of another week. After that time i will start to use the dishes and the balcony again.

Overall it was a strange experience to welcome a close person whose contact could potentially result in an deathly endeavor. I admire Julia a lot for her courage to fight Ebola and literally to go over the minefield. Obviously I would not be able to do so since I was even overwhelmed by her visit in Germany.

This article is a translation of my original german version

Rene

Rene ist PhD Student und blogger. Er setzt sich fuer freies Wissen und freie Bildung ein. Dadurch ist er auf wikiversity, wikimedia commons und gelegentlich auf der Wikipedia aktiv. Er unterstuetzt Julia ihre Erfahrungen aus Sierra Leone zu verbreiten.

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Interview with Commit & Act in Bo

End of December I had the pleasure to meet one of our partner NGOs, Commit and Act, in Bo. They are active in psychosocial support to Ebola victims. I interviewed the director, Hannah Bockarie, see video below.
27.12.2014

Julia: Hello Hannah! I’m Julia, I’m the creator of this blog and I’m making an interview here with our partner-NGO “Commit and Act” and I would like to ask Hannah to introduce herself and the NGO.

Hannah: I’m Hannah Bockarie, I’m from Sierra Leone and the director of the Commit and Act Foundation.

Julia: Could you say what is the mission of your NGO?

Hannah: Our mission is to help Sierra Leoneans, training them and working with individuals who have psychological problems. We are supporting them by offering counselling using the “ACT”-approach. And we are also working around women, women’s groups. We empower them to be self-reliance by using our “ACT”-tools. This is what we are doing in Sierra Leone. We train different categories of people using “ACT”-approach and helping people to find their life meaningful again and identify their values. That is what we are doing. And also working with young girls that have not gone through Female Genital Mutilation. We have 32 girls and this project is supported by the Desert Flower Foundation. We are also supporting those girls, young girls under 18 to not be part of the FGM and their parents have signed a consent form. So we give them financial support for medical, for food, for used clothing, stuff like that. So this is what we do. We’re also training counsellors of different organisations, we empower them to fight against Ebola. Because we know the issue of Ebola is associated with trauma, stigma and shame and denial. The negative circle is among our people. So we want to see how to break the negative circle by using the counsellors and going to different locations and show how to break the circle of transmission.

Julia: Could you describe the problems Ebola imposes on the communities here in the psychological field?

Hannah: I tell you it is not easy for our people out here that are being affected and infected by Ebola, because there are a lot of stigma around that. People are stigmatizing the survivors and even people that are staying in the quarantined homes. There is also a lot of denial, we have the negative circle that is circulating. It is difficult to break the circle, to break the chain of transmission. Commit and Act has been engaged in different occasions, different communities providing psycho-social support to affected communities and families. And we also have been training for different partners who want to go and help out in different affected communities. We offer training sessions for them. We are also very much part of the DHM team, the District Health & Medical Team and providing support that is required. We are also part of the NERC, which is the umbrella body for the response to Ebola. We have been engaged in different quarters trying to guide the process using the “ACT” approach, which is very much applicable for the people out there. So I tell you, the issue as of now, what is in our hand is, that people are still in a state of denial, they are still washing dead bodies because they don’t believe that it is real in some areas. They also have the issue of stigma, the issue of fear and panic, stigmatizing medical staff or foreign aid workers. So there are a lot of stuff around the whole of Ebola. Commit and Act is part of the fight against Ebola and we have 25 counsellors that work in different quarantined homes in affected areas and providing counselling, providing emotional support for our people out here using the “Prosocial” approach. The approach is all about helping the people to identify the value behind what we are doing. The issue of the dead body washing, we are helping our people to identify other things that can replace the dead body instead of using the dead body, kissing the dead body, washing the dead body. We empower people to look at what they can find in the community, to represent the dead body, and then have this feeling expressed, cry, touch, wash this item. So normally in some communities they come up with using a banana trunk as one of the things that would replace the dead. We want to empower them to cry on this banana trunk, to express their feelings how they miss this person, whatever they want to do that has been missing because of Ebola. So instead of being infected with the dead body they now replace that. So this is what we are using as “prosocial” approach and it has been working for some communities.

Julia: And is there anything else, any message you want to tell our German audience?

Hannah: I’m so pleased, I’m so happy that we have a partnership established now with Welthungerhilfe. We are having a project were we will be training teachers, 50 teachers as trainers. And they will be going out in different communities in the district in 15 chiefdoms. And they are going to do training after we trained them with the “prosocial” approach. They will be going back to the community and training in 94 sections. They will be training different opinion leaders, stakeholders that are in this community. 40 per section. So in the end we will be reaching out to 3740 people in the district. So we are training them to go back to our people, to empower them to break the chain of transmission, because there is a lot of misconception, there are a lot of denial. (…) So this is what we are doing in this project. And the 50 teachers are going to be trained as teachers. And the 40 people that are coming for the sections will be coming from the different villages within that section. And I tell you the paramount chief are so much yearning to see us start our project. This will be a help to the district to break the chain of transmission because it’s all about the minds of our people that are not really accepting that Ebola is real. So the project is going to help our people better understand what is really Ebola and better be able to break the chain of transmission. Because I tell you, women have been very much infected with this EVD. And we want to see how best we can incorporate women’s groups in this trainings, so that this women can know that they cannot longer be care givers in their home when the husband is sick or the child is sick. Instead you empower your husband to go to the nearest health centre. This is also part of the training package because we have found out that women are more infected because they are the caregivers. When I’m sick, my husband will not take care of me but will call my mother or my sister to come and help me, take care of me. But when he’s sick I’ll take care. So this is where women are more involved in the infection and get infected. And even when my child is sick, he will not touch, but I’ll touch my child. So this is all what we want to see in the package, training this women, training different categories of people to be part of this break of chain of transmission. I believe this project will safe many lives and I believe Bo district will go to 0. So I want to say thanks very much to the German team that has supported this project in Sierra Leone. This is not the only organization that they have supported, but they support different organisations in different locations. So I say thank you very much for supporting us in Sierra Leone, we really love this and we know that you have helped us breaking the chain of transmission of this dreadful disease. So I say thank you and we are going to work now.

Julia: Thank you very much Hannah for this very interesting interview. Thank you to Commit and Act to have such a great project idea, we totally rely on our local partners who know the situation, who understand the people. It’s great that we found this good NGO. Thank you very much!

Hannah: Thank you.

Note: Meanwhile the project was implemented with great success. Bo is the second district countrywide that was declared Ebola-free in February.

Commit and Act in the internet:

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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Fear of returning from Ebola affected regions back to Europe / Germany

It might be in the far future, but every now and then the thought pops up:

  • How will friends and family react when I return?
  • Will they avoid me?
  • Will they tell me made-up stories in order to prevent a meeting?
  • Will my family count-down the days and only welcome me after 21 have past?
  • And what is my own position?
  • Am I a risk for my family?
  • Should I avoid contact on my own initiative to protect my loved ones?
  • Should I put myself in quarantine for 21 days?

Reports from others show, the reactions are mixed. And this is also what I expect to encounter in my own environment. Initially I had planned to participate in a yoga retreat in March. But could I do so now? Could I carry the responsibility? Body contact, after sweat drenching exercise, is unavoidable. Should I keep my duty station secret? Even lie?

I say it straight forward: I haven’t done my decision yet. You might think I’m a bad person and that I’m knowingly put others at risk. But the facts are on my side: Only after developing signs of a sickness, an Ebola patient becomes contagious. As long as you keep certain procedures and keep up regular monitoring, measure your temperature and observe suspicious symptoms, there is practically no risk for your contact group.

However, doubts remain. How can I act responsible and avoid spending my annual leave in self-made quarantine at the same time?

This article is my translation of the original German post.

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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101°F fever without Ebola

During preparation time in Germany my colleagues and me made jokes about what actually happens when you get an ordinary flu during the Ebola period in Sierra Leone. I had the honor to experience it quicker than I had preferred.

After less than two weeks in the country I suddenly felt tired. I could not sleep that night, feeling alternation of too hot and too cold. Before regular taking temperature in the morning it was obvious that I was sick. 101°F at the ear. What now?! Temperature is taken at each corner: At the hotel entrance, at the office entrance, at checkpoints throughout the city, in restaurants. Fortunately it was Sunday and I could remain on the hotel premises.

Luckily there is a simple way to find out if it is a common cold or something more serious: Paracetamol. If it is effective,  Malaria and Ebola can be excluded as a cause. And it helped. I was actually not particularly worried because I know my body and I know that I catch a cold very quickly if air conditioning is present. Nevertheless, of course, people will be wary about every small detail. Itchy skin? Can Ebola cause skin rash? And what is that, bleeding gums? Does it stop soon or is it extraordinary? Nobody stays cool under those conditions.

Good advice we got at the training in Bonn: Definitely take Malaria prophylaxis. The symptoms of Malaria and Ebola are similar at the beginning, and especially newcomers can not avoid all mosquito bites. Personally, I have decided to take Lariam and had no side effects so far (Lariam is known for psycho-activity, nightmares, depression and even suicidal attempts are not unknown).

Meanwhile, my cold is as good as gone. But I want to avoid further fever incidents if possible. It was not a glorious time.

This article is a translation of Julia’s 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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