Ebola “Day-Zero” in Sierra Leone
Saturday, 7 November 2015
Today, Saturday 7th November, Sierra Leone is officially declared Ebola-free having gone 42 days without a new case – the criteria set by the World Health Organisation for declaring the outbreak ended(1). To celebrate the milestone, impromptu parties are expected at churches and mosques, in the streets and on the beaches, and President Koroma is addressing the nation from the capital, Freetown. In the worst affected country, there were 14,000 cases* with nearly one in three losing their lives.(2)
“Day-Zero” marks a huge achievement and turning point in the 18-month battle to stamp out Ebola, but the road to recovery is a long one. The estimated GDP loss for Sierra Leone is $1.4billion and the country is suffering a severe recession(3). Save the Children is helping to rehabilitate communities and the health and education systems, and is supporting the Government of Sierra Leone to ensure that measures for infection prevention and control remain in place throughout their imposed 90 days of vigilance to ensure the country is completely free from new outbreaks.
Sierra Leone’s economy and development have been left badly damaged in the wake of Ebola – causing further detriment to a country that was still reeling from 11 years of brutal civil war. Ebola has claimed the lives of 221 trained healthcare workers(4). This 5% loss of doctors and 7% loss of nurses and midwives (5) to the medical workforce hits hard in a country that had an already fragile and understaffed health system before the epidemic, with only one physician for every 50,000 people(6)
Closing all schools for nine months to prevent active transmission has left a black hole in the education of an entire generation. In a country where nearly half of the population is under 18 years(7), Ebola has deprived 1.8million children of an opportunity to learn(8). To make-up for this lost time, Save the Children is supporting the roll-out of a catch up curriculum in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The charity has also built libraries in deprived communities and supplied books, schoolbags and pens to children, as well as trained teachers to identify signs of trauma in their students.
Controlling the deadly Ebola virus disease outbreak has been a global effort – in which the UK played a vital role. More than one thousand NHS workers volunteered for deployment to West Africa, risking their lives to care for those that fell victim to the virus. Save the Children worked with the UK’s Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence to build and manage the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre.
Fourteen-year-old Ebola survivor Joshua*, was treated at the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre. He sadly lost 13 members of his family to the disease, including his father, younger brother and grandmother. He said:
“I can’t remember anything after hearing my brother had passed away. I was partially blind and unable to see what it was like and what happened to me. Even when I started regaining my life, they had to feed me and had to take care of me. I couldn’t do anything for myself. When I got home, everybody from the treatment centre gave me support. They gave me soap, food, oil and money to go to the hospital”
Mother of two, Aminata* survived the disease – as did her daughter Fatmata*, who at 9-months old was the youngest survivor at the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre when they were discharged in December. She said:
“Even now, I have joint pains in my knee and problems with my eyes. I am in great pain. When I found out that we had Ebola, I thought all was lost. We were taken to the centre. I will always remember the people there. We were cared for well, and were given medicines and good food. My husband was so happy on the day we came home.”
The Ebola response programme run by Save the Children also included the training of nearly two thousand community healthcare workers to raise awareness of the symptoms of the disease and how to prevent its transmission. The aid agency supplied hand-washing facilities, thermometers and protective clothing to local health centres. By working in coalition with other NGOs, it was ensured that every health centre in the country was reached. Since the programme was up and running, there were no further cases of Ebola amongst healthcare workers.
Isaac Ooko, Country Director for Save the Children in Sierra Leone said:
“This remarkable achievement is thanks to the strength and efforts of the entire nation. Together with support from countries including the UK, we have overcome the horrors of this brutal killer disease. By working with a nationwide network of community heroes, Save the Children was able to help even the smallest and most rural villages to tackle the virus. The country is grieving its huge loss, but we will grow back stronger. Today we will celebrate, but tomorrow we must remain focused, as the risk of a new outbreak still remains.”
*Cases includes 5,087 suspected cases, 287 probable cases and 8,704 confirmed by laboratory tests.
For more information, images or interviews, please contact Kathleen Prior in Freetown, Sierra Leone on firstname.lastname@example.org or call +232 797 67580 (Sierra Leone) or +44 7788 304 565 (UK) or Skype kpriorsaveuk
Alternatively, contact Steph Aldrich in London, UK on email@example.com or +44 207 012 6841 or +44 7831 650 409
Save the Children has been working in West Africa for nearly 30 years and has extensive experience in humanitarian response to the region’s frequent disasters and emergencies. In 2012, it mounted large-scale emergency response and helped control the cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone – the worst outbreak in the last 15 years.
As part of its Ebola response plan in Sierra Leone, Save the Children:
· Mobilised and trained nearly 2000 community healthworkers to raise awareness of the disease and ways to prevent its transmission, and to identify and refer the early warning signs.
· Provided essential items to healthcare centres, including handwashing facilities, chlorine, protective clothing and thermometers.
· Distributed books, pens and bags to 26,000 children nationwide and distributed 1,190 radios to households in Freetown and those in quarantine to enable home-based learning.
· Coordinated teacher home visits for children while schools were closed to ensure their progression with learning, providing support, training and incentives.
· Trained 830 teachers nationwide to identify and refer signs of trauma.
(1) World Health Organisation, Criteria for declaring the end of the Ebola outbreak, May 2015. http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/declaration-ebola-end/en/
(3) World Bank, Update on the economic impact of the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, April 2015. http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/958040WP0OUO900e0April150Box385458B.pdf
(4) World Health Organisation, Ebola Situation Report, 25 March 2015. http://apps.who.int/ebola/current-situation/ebola-situation-report-25-march-2015
(5) World Bank, Healthcare Worker Mortality and the legacy of the Ebola outbreak, May 2015. http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2015/07/08/disproportionate-deaths-among-health-care-workers-from-ebola-could-lead-to-sharp-rise-in-maternal-mortality-last-seen-20-years-ago---world-bank-report
(6) CIA, World Factbook, 2010. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2226.html
(7) UN data, 2014. http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=sierra%20leone
(8) Reuters, Sierra Leonean schools reopen after long closure due to Ebola, 14 April 2015. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/14/us-health-ebola-leone-education-idUSKBN0N51JY20150414