As the current Ebola virus outbreak continues to ravage western Africa, ChildFund is working with governments, global non-profit organisations and communities to prevent the further spread of the deadly disease.
You can help by making a donation to ChildFund’s Ebola Response Fund, which will help our dedicated staff members on the ground continue social mobilisation and community awareness-raising efforts, as well as support national and regional efforts to control and prevent further outbreaks. The ultimate aim is to reduce the number of people sickened and killed by the virus by identifying cases, notifying authorities, and getting the sick to appropriate medical facilities in a timely and responsible manner.
The Ebola virus infection and death rates continue to rise, especially in Liberia and Sierra Leone, faster than the national and international response, with devastating consequences. By mid-October, there were 9,216 cases, with 4,555 known deaths. The virus has overwhelmed the already weak health system in the three countries with far reaching social and economic consequences. There are experiences of deaths as a result of other non-Ebola related illnesses due to the closure of all health facilities or overwhelmed health services in the affected countries.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food for quarantined zones where Ebola cases have been found. Despite this effort, availability of food in most communities continues to be a major issue of concern due to lack of farming activities.
The spread of Ebola remains most serious in Liberia, where there has been the greatest number of deaths. Guinea and Sierra Leone are also badly affected.
Families under quarantine in Liberia and Sierra Leone — where infection rates are still on the rise — are difficult to reach with supplies of food and other resources, and Sierra Leone is reporting higher crime rates as a result. On the positive side, regular ChildFund-supported programmes are taking place in Guinea, which has seen a slowdown in its infection rate.
ChildFund’s national offices in these countries hold daily information-sharing meetings for their staff members, and soap and water are available at each facility. Non-essential staff members are staying home in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and sponsor visits to West African countries are currently suspended, as are many commercial flights to the region. The U.N. and some military assets are in the process of organising regular relief flights to and within the region. Sadly, some ChildFund staff members have lost family members during the outbreak.
In Liberia, ChildFund is working with the government and other non-governmental organisations to spread awareness about the virus, and our staff members there recently delivered supplies from an airlift, including gloves, masks and other protective gear. For many communities, these were the first supplies delivered directly to them. We have also been assisting our partners in setting up specialised direct care treatment facilities.
In Sierra Leone, ChildFund is an active member of the Child Protection Cluster, conducting assessments and registering enrolled and sponsored children and families affected by Ebola, as well as offering psychosocial services at interim care centres established by the Ministry of Social Welfare, with whom we have a strong, long-term relationship.
With the number of orphaned children climbing above 3,000, there is a high risk of increased vulnerability of children to abandonment, neglect, violence, exploitation and abuse. Adequate home care and shelter is becoming increasingly a problem as many parents die leaving their children behind and the poor economic condition of other family members is not helping the situation. Poverty, stigma and fear of the illness are hampering efforts to find new homes for orphaned children.
The national government through the Ministry of Social Welfare in Liberia and Sierra Leone has engaged INGO’s such as ChildFund to setup Interim Care Centres (ICC) in the cities as well as in local communities. Through these centres care and protection is provided for orphans shielding them from the risk of infection and offering them engaging activities to keep them busy. There is also a need to strengthen the presence of ChildFund’s local partners at the community level in discussion forums around the decision on the protection of children. This will ensure that children are covered by community programmes and have access to prevention services and adequate response.
Looking toward the future, the Ebola Response Fund will help ChildFund support local efforts to enhance public awareness about the virus, including how it is transmitted, how to control it, and how to prevent more cases. We also plan to strengthen coordination and communication with the World Health Organisation, the Centres for Disease Control, government ministries, international non-governmental organisations and civil society groups.
A third focus is to help national government ministries administer psychosocial care to children and families affected by the disease, helping them cope with losses and re-enter their communities after they’ve recovered from Ebola. ChildFund also hopes to train more community health personnel and other first responders to improve early detection and self-reporting of Ebola cases, to avoid an outbreak like this in the future. Finally, we want to create a safe working environment for our staff, local partner organisations and community health workers.