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Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention

by AdvocAid
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention
Ebola Prevention & Support for Women in Detention

The last few months have brought so many reasons to celebrate that we feel like sharing it with all our lovely followers. As the Ebola outbreak is coming to an end, the laws and curfews imposed during Sierra Leone’s State of Emergency are gradually being lifted, and the disease prevention measures that we have supported in the prisons can be relaxed. It is therefore time for us to close down this project and instead direct our sponsors to our anniversary appeal ‘Celebrating 10 Years of Justice for Women’. We hope you will stay connected with AdvocAid!

Sierra Leone has been able to contain the Ebola outbreak since March, where the last patient was tested negative for the second time. However, a 42-day countdown must elapse in Guinea and Liberia as well before the outbreak can be declared over in West Africa. If no new cases emerge, this will happen on 9 June.

It is of course too early to lift all preventative measures, which is why we have continued to hand out Ebola sanitary items (such as Dettol, chlorine, soap, sanitary pads and buckets) in detentions and prisons, where just one Ebola case could very quickly transmit to other detainees. In March, AdvocAid celebrated International Women's Day with women and girls in eight correctional centres and remand homes, and on 26-27 April we went back to celebrate Sierra Leone's 55th Independence Day. On these events, we handed out a total of 671 Ebola and welfare packs.

AdvocAid has remained fully operational throughout the Ebola outbreak, representing women in conflict with the law and advocating for changes and accountability in the legal system. Still, with the entire country focusing on one thing – responding to the emergency – existing challenges have not been dealt with, and a dire need for legal aid remains. Many girls and women lost relatives and livelihoods during the crisis, and in the past year, we have seen too many of these women seeking out hazardous ways of providing for their families and ending up in conflict with the law as a result.

Help AdvocAid provide legal aid for another 10 years – Looking back at the devastating Ebola outbreak and ahead on AdvocAid’s next ten years of operation, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate. Yet holistic legal aid – customised to meet the specific needs of women and girls – remains crucial. Over the last three months alone, we have been able to assist 271 women, but as most post-Ebola resources go to the health and education sectors, funding for our work is increasingly difficult to come by. This leaves women and girls incredibly vulnerable in the legal system.

AdvocAid relies on generous people like yourself to raise funds for our legal aid services, and we are therefore hoping that you would consider donating to our anniversary project. Monthly donations especially will enable us to better plan our work and make it much more sustainable, but we’d appreciate any amount you can spare. Thank you in advance for your support!

Celebrating International Women
Celebrating International Women's Day
Inmates with Ebola and welfare packs
Inmates with Ebola and welfare packs

Links:

An AdvocAid client (distorted for anonymity)
An AdvocAid client (distorted for anonymity)

Sierra Leone has once again been back on the front pages, for the tragic reason of having a number of new Ebola cases, taking the country back a step.

Last spring, the World Bank Group estimated that the three most affected countries (Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia) would lose at least US$2.2 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015 as a result of the epidemic. The World Bank has since reported Sierra Leone to be the most negatively affected country of the three, in terms of lost revenue.

$318 million USD has been mobilised by the World Bank for Sierra Leone’s response and recovery. In terms of response, it has been stipulated that these funds be to help communities cope with the economic impact of the crisis, and improve public health systems.

Whilst AdvocAid fully backs the need for funds to go to the health and education sectors and to rebuilding the economy – all of which have been crippled by the epidemic no additional funds are making their way to the justice sector, which has been hugely impacted with courts not sitting, lack of lawyers in the rural areas, human rights abuses under the State of National Emergency and overcrowding in the prisons.

AdvocAid’s monitoring of the Correctional Centres has revealed that there’s an alarming number of women behind bars with vaginal infections from the lack of washing facilities and clean water – as hygiene supplies in country inflated in price, and attention behind bars moved to preventing an ebola outbreak, women’s personal health and hygiene has been compromised. AdvocAid is responding to this by applying for rapid funds to provide women with welfare items.

AdvocAid has continued to provide critical free legal assistance throughout the duration of the epidemic, and continues now, as the need shows itself more than ever. The impact of the virus will be felt most keenly by the country’s most vulnerable: women forced further into poverty; orphaned children; children taking on family responsibilities having lost parents; girls who dropped out of school forced into commercial sex work to make ends meet…

Between June 2014 and November 2015, AdvocAid has provided legal assistance to 1,340 girls and women. This has been possible with the continued support of individuals such as you, understanding the critical need to continue to invest in the justice system during health outbreaks. Our thanks and sincere gratitude.

AdvocAid faces a number of challenges within 2016 – ongoing funding is our main one, as funds for the justice sector are diverted elsewhere. We’d be very grateful if you’d consider making a regular gift to AdvocAid, to ensure we can continue our operations working with girls and women in conflict with the law. Thank You.

Links:

Celebrations in Freetown; Photo by Tom Bradley
Celebrations in Freetown; Photo by Tom Bradley

Since we last wrote to you, Sierra Leone has been firmly in the press for all of the right reasons – on 7 November, following 18 months, the country was declared Ebola free.

With your support, AdvocAid was able to keep operating throughout the whole period, and ensure that there was no outbreaks in the courts, police stations or prisons – all of which were extremely high risk due to the high turn-over of people (over half of whom have not been convicted of any crime).

We also campaigned hard against human rights violations that resulted from the new laws imposed under the State of Emergency. Read more about this in one of our previous reports.

We wanted to use this report to provide a glimpse of our reach during the 18 month Ebola epidemic. Over this period, AdvocAid has…

  • Provided free legal support to 1,822 women and girls. If we’d ceased operations, as so many NGOs were forced to do, these women and girls could still be behind bars now for offences as small as abusive language
  • Distributed packages of Ebola prevention materials, including hand wash buckets, Dettol, gloves and soap to over 23 institutions including courts, police stations and correctional centres
  • Delivered 12 training sessions to vulnerable women – including market traders and commercial sex workers – on the new State of Emergency laws and how to stay safe from Ebola
  • Delivered 179 welfare packages to women behind bars – with travel restrictions, many women have received no visitors when in prison during the epidemic - our welfare packages provide them with sanitary and hygiene items, that are not available from the prison

Our social worker has led a lot of AdvocAid’s Ebola response – her monthly reports provide feedback on the receipt of the Ebola prevention materials over the course of the epidemic, including:

“At the central police station, the L.U.C received us and was very happy to receive the Ebola prevention materials.”

“In the provinces, I presented Ebola prevention items in Bo and Kenema at the same time as conducting monitoring. I met with the Judges and Magistrates in Bo and presented the Ebola prevention items to the Magistrate at the Magistrate Court. They were pleased with the presentation and encouraged us to be visiting and sensitizing the women in the Provinces.”

“We donated the items to the Kenema Court officials. They were also pleased to see us and received the items with thanks.”

“At the Correctional Centres and Remand Home, inmates and officials were pleased to welcome us. We were welcomed with a song at the Kenema Correctional Centre. The inmates received the welfare items sent with appreciation”

In the spirit of Sierra Leone’s colourful and vibrant character, we say ‘Bye Bye Ebola’ with hip hop!

Thank you all for your support during this incredibly difficult period for Sierra Leone; a period when we have lost 3,955 people to the disease.  Sierra Leone needs public support as much now, as it did during the Ebola epidemic. 

We’d be grateful if you’d consider making a donation to our Legal Aid project, to ensure we can continue providing support into the New Year. We are anticipating an increased number of women will need legal interventions in 2016, with so many households losing their main income earner to the disease, over 12,000 orphans created, and ongoing human rights concerns - particularly that of pregnant girls being refused access to school (school-age pregnancies increased during the epidemic).

Thank you.

Links:

Market Trader, Isatu
Market Trader, Isatu

On behalf of all of the women and girls we have supported over the past three months, thank you for your support towards our Ebola prevention project. We are delighted to have seen the number of Ebola cases reduce week-on-week within Sierra Leone, and last Friday, the State of Emergency regulations on public gatherings was lifted. However with between four and seven new cases still recorded each week, a large amount of work is still needed to get to Zero Ebola.

Since we were last in touch, we have been busy with both our sensitization work, as well as distributing prevention materials to Correctional Centres, Courts and Police Stations. In July, our Kenema Programme Officer, Jalahan, donated preventative items to the Kenema Central Police station including: one gallon rexo-guard, one multipurpose surface cleaner, 1kg saba powder soap for cleaning the cells, two hand sanitizers and four rubber buckets for the inmates. The supply will be repeated next month (excluding the buckets). Such trips have been repeated across the other towns in which we have a presence including Magburaka Magistrate Court (April) and Port Loko Correctional Centre (May).

A large part of our ongoing work during this crisis, is to provide legal aid to those affected by legal changes implemented during the State of Emergency. Unfortunately, we have seen a large number of women affected by needless arrests due to police misunderstanding the new laws, or abusing their position of power.

One such example is that of Isatu, a market trader at Lumley market in Freetown. A couple of months ago, she says the police raided her food stand and beat her, as they say she was operating past the curfew for business hours. Isatu says it was 20 minutes before the mandatory closing time. She was in prison for one month before AdvocAid could get her released on bail. You can read more on this case study on Voice of Africa News.

Sadly, such cases like these are not isolated; AdvocAid’s Paralegals have been working closely with the police stations to ensure these women receive the legal assistance they need, and that the State of Emergency is implemented in a law abiding manner.

When we last reported to you, we told you about how we’d dispatched Paralegals to monitor Police Stations in each region in which we operate during the March 27-29 lockdown, to ensure there was legal support on hand for those detained during the three day period. Since then, we have produced a report on the findings from the lockdown, detailing what people were arrested for, the intervention’s provided and the recommendations to ensure human rights are upheld during such future lockdowns. You can read a copy of the report here.

With the ongoing support of people like you, AdvocAid will continue to work on the frontline of Sierra Leone’s Ebola response, working to ensure the country’s police and judicial systems not only function but do so in a law abiding way.

Whilst the Ebola crisis is featuring in the headlines less and less, it is continuing, and support and intervention will be needed long after the last case has been declared. Sierra Leone has suffered dramatically. We would be incredibly grateful for your ongoing support in ensuring Sierra Leone’s women and girls maintain their legal and human rights during the State of Emergency. Thank you for any support you can offer.

You can read more about AdvocAid on our website, www.advocaidsl.com and keep up to date with our daily activities via www.facebook.com/advocaidsierraleone and www.twitter.com/advocaid

Handing out Ebola prevention materials
Handing out Ebola prevention materials
Items donated to Kenema Central Police Station
Items donated to Kenema Central Police Station

Links:


Attachments:
Handing out Ebola prevention materials
Handing out Ebola prevention materials

On behalf of everyone at AdvocAid, and all of the women we support, thank you for the generous donation you have made to our Ebola Response Appeal via Global Giving. Since the start of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak, there have been over 10,000 deaths and more than 24,000 infected.

Based in Sierra Leone, AdvocAid have been at the heart of the Ebola outbreak, standing firmly side-by-side with the women we represent and the courts, police stations and prisons we work with.

With your support, AdvocAid has supplied sanitation materials such as dettol, chlorine, buckets and gloves to courts, prisons and police stations, along with welfare support for female detainees. In January, we visited the Kissy Police Station, Ross Road Police Station and Waterloo Court to hand out preventative materials and talk to staff about the best ways to curb an outbreak in their facilities.

In March, AdvocAid staff went to Aberdeen Police Post, Adonkia Police Station, Adelaide Street Police Station, Central Police Station, CID Pademba Road and Goderich Police Station in the Western Area. We also went into the provinces, to supply the police stations, courts and correctional centres in Bo and Kenema with preventative and welfare items.

The prison population is constantly revolving, making an outbreak behind bars a high probability. With your support, over 20 institutions have received materials, keeping staff, detainees and their children safe.

As the outbreak has developed, we have noticed that not only is AdvocAid’s support needed with sanitation items, but also in providing vital assistance and aid as the legal landscape has changed so dramatically.

In July 2014, the President declared a national State of Emergency. As a result of this, a number of laws have been amended, resulting in a ban on public assemblies, reduced trading hours, curfews in some areas and periodic ‘lockdowns’. These rules, whilst aimed at curbing the Ebola outbreak, unfortunately have also created a heightened sense of fear resulting in an increased number of arrests.

Subsequently, AdvocAid have played a vital role in providing women affected by the State of Emergency with legal aid - for example market traders affected by amended trading laws. During the lockdowns, including the most recent one from 27-29 March, AdvocAid dispatched paralegals to Police Stations in each region in which we operate to ensure there was legal support on hand for those detained during the lockdown. We provided assistance and advice to over 50 individuals during the 72 hour period, including those that were detained for collecting water, leaving their homes for food and leaving ID cards at home amongst other offences.

In October 2014, eight Kono residents (two women and six men) were detained following an alleged riot at a contested Ebola burial. They were detained without charge, had no warrants or documentation supporting their detention in prison, and therefore no date when they would be released. Constitutional safeguards, such as review of their detention by an independent tribunal, were not followed.

AdvocAid, in partnership with Amnesty International Sierra Leone, Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) and Prison Watch campaigned for the release of these eight suspects. Following six months of campaigning and raising awareness on the national and international stage, the two women were released on 12 April 2015. They had spent six months behind bars away from their children, for allegations they deny. The men were finally charged on 21 April after a habeas corpus application was filed.

As the outbreak has continued, AdvocAid has strategically positioned itself to ensure human rights aren’t abused, laws are upheld, the justice system continues to function, and that the State of Emergency doesn’t curtail freedom of expression and assembly.

We’re incredibly grateful for your support. Through your donations, we’re able to continue operating when Sierra Leone needs it the most. Our work is far from complete however - we’re seeking to ensure that once the outbreak is declared over, Sierra Leone remains a fair and just country.

If you’re able to continue supporting this important project, we’d be most grateful.

Thank you for your support.

One of our Paralegals monitoring lockdown arrests
One of our Paralegals monitoring lockdown arrests
One of our paralegals documenting lockdown arrests
One of our paralegals documenting lockdown arrests
Distribution of Ebola prevention materials
Distribution of Ebola prevention materials
Two Kono detainees upon release & a third detainee
Two Kono detainees upon release & a third detainee

Links:

 

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Organization Information

AdvocAid

Location: Freetown, Western Region - Sierra Leone
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @advocaid
Project Leader:
Simitie Lavaly
Freetown, Western Region Sierra Leone

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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