Julia has interviewed Doris Manary the Regional Training and Advocacy Officer for the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs. Together with Julia I have transcribed the video and added subtitles for a better understanding.
I am Doris Mansary, the Regional Training and Advocacy Officer and I work for the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children Affairs. As a ministry we are heading the psychosocial pillar. It is commonly known as the child protection, social welfare and gender pillar. It is one of the pillars that make up the Ebola Task Force Team in Kailahun District. And so we have a lot of activities that we do as a ministry together with child protection agencies.
Our pillar is responsible to ensure or provide psychosocial support for Ebola survivors but also Ebola affected families and children that are within Ebola affected families. What we do is, we have a series of components and activities that we look at. I would like to talk about the FTRR aspect, the Family Tracing and Reunification aspect which our pillar is also doing. We had an agreement with MSF (medicals sans frontiers) who is responsible to treat Ebola infected persons. Once they arrive at the MSF Treatment Centre they come alone with children. Some children are indeed positive of Ebola, others are negative.
So we have two houses that we are running. As a ministry we are running the OICC, Observational Interim Care Centre and then we have an ICC that we refer to as the Interim Care Centre. Now for the Observational and Interim Care Centre. This is when children and families are in quarantine, we go in as a ministry and ask them to hand over the children to come to the Observation and Interim Care Centre. It is in this centre where we also monitor them for 21 days like the usual what family members go through. So once we are able to observe them for 21 days and they are not symptomatic at all we work with the families again and we reunify them back to their families. But in the event where they are symptomatic, like when they are going to the Observation and Interim Care Centre we automatically call MSF because we have that establishment between MSF and the Ministry of Social Welfare. So we call on MSF and they will communicate to the districts’ Health Management Team so they send an ambulance and pick up the child that becomes symptomatic in the OICC.
In the Observational Interim Care Centre we have employed the services of survivors – Ebola survivors. So patients oppose no threat to them. We have like three working in the Observational Interim Care Centre who provide care for children who are under quarantine or children that are discharged as non-case. So if they become symptomatic at least the Ebola survivors who work with them can manage them until they are picked up by the ambulance.
And for the Interim Care Centre these are children who are infected by the Ebola virus but they got cured from the Treatment Centre and we receive them and they come into the ICC for a transition period. While they are at the ICC we provide psychosocial counselling services for them to talk about their issues, help them to recover from whatever stressful situation they experience while they were at the Treatment Centre. We also introduce them to play, the right to play, because we know recreation helps them a lot to recover. At the same time we start family tracing for other family members. Because some children who come to the Treatment Centres with their families had parents who died in the Treatment Centre. So the kids become orphans. Once they come to the Interim Care Centre we start family tracing. When we are able to identify the family members we reunify them back into their family at the local communities. So you come to realize that we don’t have too many children in the Interim Care Centre. This is because we reunify them as soon as we identify their families. So that is one aspect of what we do in the sense of psychosocial support to fight this Ebola.
The second aspect is: There is this issue of stigma and shame. There are women or children or families who get cured from Ebola. When they go back to their communities, out of fear community people don’t want to accept them back. They shun away from them. They don’t want do associate longer with them. So they feel discriminated at. So what we are doing as a ministry, because we are working together with other child protection agencies, we have agencies that we have identified who are professional people in counselling. So the Sierra Leone Red Cross has up to 70 community counsellors on psychosocial first aid. Now the ministry works with other agencies like Save the Children International, Plan Sierra Leone. We also build the capacities of community people. So when there is this issue of stigma and shame these community counsellors go in and provide supportive talks. In a situation where we have extreme cases where someone is in need for a personal counsellor then they can refer to us and we provide one to one counselling. We have instances where some ladies got cured and they started behaving abnormal as if they are becoming crazy. We also observe post Ebola symptoms that were identified as medical symptoms. Some are coming, they are having problems with their eyes, eye sight problems. Some complain that they don’t feel normal. Some are behaving abnormally. Some continue to complain body pains. These are all issues that they are having even if they are cured. So for situations like that we provide one to one professional counselling with the client, talk to them, help them, until they are stabilized and they go back to their community.
And as a relieve aspect in the work that we do, for every child that comes into the ICC, when the child goes to reunification, we put a package together that we refer to as reunification package. And the child goes with that package. In that package there are just basic materials that are there, used clothing, kitchen utensils, those are basic things. Recreation materials like balls, teddy bears, they are all in that package. So we give that bag, they go along. At the same time we also provide the same support to children that are within affected families in the communities.
And now, for the survivors, what the ministry has done, we work together with UNICEF for the Ebola survivors. Some two weeks ago, we had an Ebola survivors’ conference, where the survivors converged in Kailahun District and they shared their experience with us. Tell us exactly what they went through when they told them that they had Ebola, when they were in the Treatment Centre what they went through and now that they are recovered. But also in that conference the survivors were able to tell us how they can act as ambassadors to help fight Ebola once and for all in Sierra Leone. So it was a very useful conference that we had with them. But when they were leaving we also had a package that we gave to them. When they identify somebody who is symptomatic, if they go to disinfect the community or the house, they will destroy personal properties. The disinfection team. It’s not deliberate, it’s just the ideal situation. So when this people come back when they recover they have lost a lot of their personal properties. The Ministry of Social Welfare together with UNICEF decided to put a package together to see how we can help. It is comprised of used clothing, matrasses, buckets, rice. Those basic things we put together and we are still searching the support of other people to come in because we cannot match up with all the property they lose during the time of disinfection. So, we also provide that kind of service and maybe before this weekend we are also going to provide some kind of financial support. It’s something small, it’s just to appease them. They are going through a lot of problems in the community. On top of all the materials supporting them, they require also people to talk them through their problems all the time. Because there are some family members who will tell you they lost up to 25 people to Ebola.
We have orphans, so many orphans now as a result of Ebola. And so this children are in their communities, they are with other family members, but remember, it’s an additional burden for this family member who is taking, like the family we have now, they take five children, add them to your own children, its serious altogether. So there is going to be a whole lot of social problems, they’re having. Around material support, around the counselling services that we talked about. So it’s really serious and as a ministry we continue to seek the involvement of maybe other partners who come on board. Like when Welthungerhilfe came they have been very useful. For the caregivers, they are just on voluntary service. But they also have their families. So we are also negotiating with agencies who can step in to see, maybe it is food for work, if they can just receive something like food stuff or whatever incentive, just to make them feel relaxed while they do the job. This are the basic things we are doing, we talk about, when we look at the psychosocial pillar in the Kailahun District.