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Ebola crisis: giving parents the knowledge to protect their families

Sam* at an Ebola interim care centre in the remote, disease-struck district of Kailahun, eastern Sierra Leone (Ashley Hamer/Save the Children)

The Ebola outbreak is all over the news and the numbers can feel overwhelming.

At least 6,553 people have been infected across the region and over 3,083 have already died from the disease.

In Sierra Leone there are 5 new cases every hour.

Yet for people living in the affected countries, this crisis isn’t about numbers. It’s only about loved ones who are sick, and who are dying.

 

Sam’s story

Sam* is around three years old and lives in the remote district of Kailahun, eastern Sierra Leone, which has been heavily affected by the outbreak.

When Sam’s mum caught Ebola, she brought him and his little brother Peter* to the Ebola treatment centre run by Médecins Sans Frontières‎. Neither Sam nor Peter was found to have symptoms of Ebola, so they were taken to an interim care centre supported by Save the Children.

Sam was very thin when he arrived, and later developed a sore throat. The team at the care centre made sure he had the treatment he needed to get better.

 

A terrible fate for a tiny child

Sam’s younger brother Peter was not so lucky. He developed symptoms of the disease and was immediately transferred to the treatment centre but sadly, he died shortly afterwards.

However, there is a little good news in the midst of this family tragedy: Sam’s mother has made a full recovery. She now lives at the care centre with Sam, where she is able to help out.

Sam is not currently believed to have Ebola, but he and his mum must wait until the 21-day incubation period is over to be sure. At the moment Sam is healthy and being cared for.

 

Support is vital

Without the support provided at the Save the Children-supported interim care centre, Sam would have been more vulnerable to catching this deadly disease. Instead, he has been looked after throughout this extremely traumatic experience.

Unfortunately, this interim care centre is one of very few such places currently operating in Sierra Leone.

There are 2.5 million children under five living in areas affected by the Ebola outbreak. They are at risk of catching the disease themselves but also of losing their parents or carers.

The scale of this outbreak can seem paralysing; but we can help, and we must act.

 

Awareness and education

It’s vital that we continue to raise awareness and educate people on preventing the disease’s spread. It’s equally important that there are sufficient care facilities and trained staff to handle cases.

When Sam’s mum got sick, she recognised the symptoms and knew where to go. In a terrible situation, she did the best for her family. We want to enable many more families to do the same.

We have already trained more than 3,000 community health workers, to go from house to house explaining how to prevent infection.

We have also set up a treatment centre in Liberia, and are helping the UK government to set one up in Sierra Leone.

So far, we have reached more than 265,000 people across four countries. But we need to do much more. Please support our Ebola Crisis Appeal.

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