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Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone

by The Welbodi Partnership
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Communities Fighting Ebola in Urban Sierra Leone
Social Mobilisation in Eastern Freetown
Social Mobilisation in Eastern Freetown

Despite notable gains in the fight against maternal and infant mortality, a recent UN report has ranked Sierra Leone as having the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. The ranking comes at a time when the country is coming to terms with a deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak that has further severely disrupted the basic healthcare service delivery system in the country. The government, NGOs and other development partners have come up with innovative strategies to improve health care in this country and one such strategy is the national immunization campaign. With support from health sector development partners, the Ministry of Health (MoH) introduced the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) week (Mami en Pikin Welbodi Week) in 2013 as a national campaign that is undertaken twice a year with the aim of improving the health status of women and children in Sierra Leone. With the emergence of the EVD outbreak in 2014, this nationwide event, like many other health care services, was hugely disrupted and thousands of under-five children failed to receive lifesaving vaccines in a nation where the under five mortality is 217/1000 live births.     

 During a health partners’ coordination meeting attended by Welbodi staff, the MoH requested all health partners to support them in making sure that it achieves its target of reaching 90% of under-five children and pregnant women in the national vaccination exercise. Among the key areas the ministry requested support in were social mobilisation, logistical support and training of vaccinators.

Thanks to funds from GlobalGiving, Welbodi Partnership responded to the request of the Health Ministry by supporting Tok fo Pikin Welbodi (Speak for Children’s Health) to conduct a three-day social mobilisation exercise which included house to house visits and radio panel discussion all within communities in the east of Freetown. The aim of the exercise was to reach a minimum of 10,000 homes with messages related to the vaccination campaign and also promote other positive health seeking behaviours that can contribute to improving the lives of women and children. The team also dispelled myths and misconceptions that the exercise was a mass EVD vaccination campaign. An estimated 20,000 families were directly reached in the three-day exercise and throughout the project period. It was observed, among other things, that most of the communities had received no prior information about the vaccination exercise and many others thought it was a massive EVD vaccination drive. The two-day radio panel discussion attracted a number of calls from listeners and the panellists were able to appropriately respond to relevant questions related to the exercise. Among the key services provided during the November 2015 MCH week were:

  • Administration of Oral Polio vaccine
  • Vitamin A supplementation
  • Albendazole administration - deworming
  • Defaulter tracing for immunization (targeting children less than one year and referred to health facilities)
  • Identification of malnourished children using the Mid Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) system
  • Antenatal care (ANC) for pregnant women

Following the completion of the nation-wide vaccination exercise, the president in his speech to parliament cited that “over 1,475,000 children 0-59 months were vaccinated against Polio which represented 98.8% coverage and over 206, 000 women of child bearing age have received at least two doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine”. As a key partner in Sierra Leone’s healthcare service delivery, we are proud to play a part in this success.

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Tok for Pikin Welbodi volunteers in their new gear
Tok for Pikin Welbodi volunteers in their new gear

Recently Tok fo Pikin Welbodi (TfPW) volunteers developed a proposal requesting Welbodi Partnership (WP) to fund the simple procurement of high quality rain gear for 35 volunteers. Sometimes basic rain gear can mean all the difference in reaching communities and continuing the Ebola response. Experience has taught them that the rains always pose a serious threat to their community work and being able to work, even under the heaviest downpour, allows them to spread vital messages and aid to areas they work in.

During the rainy season Sierra Leone experiences heavy monsoons; it is often very challenging to continue community work during this time. Providing these simple tools allow for volunteers to continue their vital community work during the season. Today, thanks to Global Giving, our volunteers have been able to reach the far corners of their communities with health related messages and lifesaving interventions during the rainy season. One of the volunteers said that “With this rain gear, we are now unstoppable!

Not too long after the gear arrived, Freetown experienced one of the heaviest floods in recent history. The floods have displaced approximately 10,000 people, destroyed properties and the casualties are still being counted. With the use of the rain gear, volunteers were able to reach out to homes and schools to rescue children that were caught by the sudden floods. Annual exams were taking place and many children were stranded in waist high water in the schools while their homes were washed away.

Had it not been for the timely intervention of these volunteers, aided by their new gear, the devastation to lives and homes would have been greater in those communities. During a visit to one of the severely affected communities, Alpha Sesay, one of the volunteers, said “I feel proud that we were able to help community members during this trying time and it is our hope that we [volunteers] will continue to work with Welbodi Partnership to save our communities from such natural disasters.

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Men using the new hand washing station
Men using the new hand washing station

Over 6,000 Educated About Ebola Prevention in Local Communities.

Thanks in part to a grant from GlobalGiving and your donations, we’ve been able to support our community group, Tok fo Pikin Welbodi (Speak for Children’s health) in their implementation of a massive Ebola Community Sensitization project focused on youths within three constituencies in the East end of Freetown. This project happened as a result of the surge in cases in Western Area and it became evident that there was need for practical messaging and engagement of communities. The theme of the project was “Getting to and staying at Zero Ebola cases. Tok fo Pikin Welbodi volunteers were trained on the use of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s approved messages for Ebola affected communities. From these messages key themes were shared and they were provided with hand washing buckets, liquid soap and posters to be distributed in the communities. 

The leaders of Ban Palor Poyo Bar at Kissy Bypass Road said, “We have been left out of this Ebola fight and we have never had hand washing facilities in our base. Now that you have brought this bucket and the liquids soaps for us, we will ensure that we properly use them. The messages about calling 117 for any suspected sick person(s), avoiding secret burials and the reasons for effective hand washing are very helpful for us. Thanks for the efforts and remember to come back around. Take my picture and show them we have started washing our hands and we will continue. “

The project lasted from 27th May to 10th June 2015. The volunteers visited 226 locations and surpassed their target of reaching 6,000 people by reaching 6,613.

Community Volunteers
Community Volunteers

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Hospital staff learning to use PPE
Hospital staff learning to use PPE

I saw a blur of yellow gloves and dancing bodies, while the instructors – two nurses employed by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Freetown – called out instructions in Krio, a local creole language. Waves of laughter filled the room as cleaners, laundry staff, and other non-clinical health workers shimmied and shook to test the fit of their personal protective equipment (PPE) in a training session on how to prevent infections and keep themselves and other safe from Ebola.

Having just arrived in Freetown a few days before, I was pleasantly surprised to see the grim image of workers clad in PPE—an image that had become, in many ways, the ultimate symbol of the Ebola outbreak—transformed into a scene of  fun and empowerment. “The PPE shake,” I later tweeted.

What I was watching, in February 2015, was a pilot of a training class that will be rolled out in hospitals nationwide in Sierra Leone. The Welbodi Partnership is playing an important role in providing this training, as well as ongoing mentorship and other support for infection control, to staff in three Freetown hospitals.  

We know, however, that it’s not only hospital workers who need to stay safe. With your support through Global Giving, we will provide opportunities for smaller, primary health facilities in the poorest neighborhoods in Freetown to request this kind of training, or to propose other initiatives they believe will help stop the spread of Ebola. We know that health workers and other local partners are well-placed to identify obstacles and opportunities in the fight against Ebola, and we are committed to providing them with both financial and non-financial support to exploit those opportunities.

You can help. Just $50 can sponsor a training session, and just $100 can buy an infrared thermometer to screen patients before they enter a primary health clinic, identifying those with fever or other possible signs of Ebola in order to protect staff and other patients from infection

Communities, too, are essential to fighting this deadly disease. Next time, we’ll report on some of what our community partners are doing, with your support, to help Sierra Leone reach zero infections!

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Organization Information

The Welbodi Partnership

Location: Headcorn, Kent - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @welbodi
Project Leader:
Ryann Manning
London, United Kingdom

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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