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Sierra Leone: the fight against Ebola


Francis, a Community Health Worker in Sierra Leone

Is there one thing  you never leave home without? For Francis, there are two: his toolbox and a first aid kit. As a carpenter, he was already used to fixing things in his community. Now he has been trained by Save the Children as a Community Health Worker, so he can also provide basic medical care.

“Usually when people come for treatment I leave the woodwork, get my hands washed and attend to them – then get back to work,” he says.

Francis’s robust attitude, skills and kit can do a great deal of good. But they can’t fight one disease that has recently broken out in his region: Ebola.

Great pain. No cure. And a fatality rate that can hit 90%.

Ebola virus affects both adults and children and there is currently no cure.  Fever, weakness and muscle pain lead to a rash, vomiting, loss of kidney and liver function, and in some cases both internal and external bleeding. Of those who catch this horrible disease, through contact with the bodily fluids of affected people or animals, up to 90% will die.

So far, there are 178 suspected cases across the region. 66 are confirmed in Guinea, 5 in Liberia. None are confirmed yet in Sierra Leone but we need to act fast to limit the virus’s spread.

“Korglor yia laygor eh kpokowa,” says Francis, which means “information about an impending war can save the aged from being killed”.

A clear plan

Save the Children is working with Sierra Leone communities to help them recognise the disease if it arrives. We are training over 2,000 community health workers who will cover all the communities in Kailahun and Pujehun, raising awareness of ways to prevent Ebola and making sure people know how to respond to suspected cases.

“First, we are going to ask the town chief to call all the people to a meeting,” says Francis. “Then we will continue with one-on-one sensitisation and in the event of a suspected case, we will immediately report to the health centre.”

“We alone cannot do the work”

Tahiru Abdulai, a Community Health Officer responsible for training health workers, knows how crucial it is that communities are supported in this way.

“The training of Community Health Workers is very important,” she explains. “We alone cannot do the work. They can help us prevent Ebola because they are living with the people in these communities. More importantly, they are now well equipped to start sensitising those communities.”

Francis will now teach others in the community to recognise the symptoms of Ebola so they can refer anyone who may be suffering from the disease to medical care, immediately. Together, we hope to win the battle against this deadly virus.

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