COVID-19 Response in Sierra Leone & Guinea Bissau

by WellFound
COVID-19 Response in Sierra Leone & Guinea Bissau

What a year 2020 has been. Not one of has been left unaffected by some of the challenges which this year has thrown at us. It is during times of hardship that people must come together, to help one another and pull through as a community. We have seen community take many forms this year, whether that is bringing groceries to high-risk neighbours, chatting remotely to people in isolation, or people around the world going through a shared and collective struggle. While many of us have had vastly different experiences of the effects of the pandemic, one thing is for sure: we are united in our fight against it. 

We would like to take this opportunity to update you, our donors and followers, on our activities in light of COVID-19. 2020 has been an immensely busy year for us. Our response to the pandemic in Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone has not come at the expense of our usual activities, which are ongoing. In addition to the projects which were already being implemented, we have added in a host of COVID-19 response activities to bring relief to people affected by the pandemic in the regions where we work.   

One key and often overlooked impact of the pandemic in rural Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone has been the huge increases in the price of food. Due to restrictions being put in place to control the spread of COVID-19, imports and domestic food prices have shot up. For people already living in extreme poverty, this has meant that they have often been going hungry. As many of you will already know, WellFound has been addressing malnutrition for a long time through our community market garden programme, where women are able to grow and harvest fresh vegetables to supplement their and their family's diets. We have ramped up our market garden programme massively and are glad to report that communities are already harvesting crops.

Community-grown crops not only help to provide a balanced and healthy diet, but also address the fact that many people cannot afford to buy food at market with the current prices. For those most in need of immediate nutritional relief, we have provided temporary emergency food packages until they are able to harvest vegetables from their market gardens. Additionally, we have also extended the market garden programme to individual households: encouraging and showing people how to create vegetable patches in their gardens.  

Women in Guinea Bissau are already harvesting their own vegetables.

Information has arguably been our best tool in combating this virus. Knowledge on how to stay safe has saved countless lives. We are all well aware by now of the power of hand washing, disinfecting, social distancing and quarantining, however people living in areas with little to no phone signal and no internet are not able to get this potentially life-saving information as easily as we are. This is why we have worked with health professionals to visit individual households (with strict social distancing enforced and PPE worn at all times) to educate people on how to stay safe and prevent infection during this time, as well as what to do if someone in the community or household starts to exhibit symptoms. This information has also gone out via radio, which many people in these areas are able to listen to. We have been distributing PPE, disinfectant and sanitiser to individual households and rural health centres, to ensure that people have the necessary equipment to prevent infection.  

We are now all too familiar with the need to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly.

Among our other activities being carried out this year, we have been showing people how to construct cheap and easy hand washing stations, providing health centres with access to clean water, and empowering people from each community we work with to become Community Health Volunteers who help to ensure that everyone in their community stays safe and has everything they need to get by. 

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Now that we are all several months into the pandemic, we are seeing different effects in different parts of the world.  In Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, some of the most pronounced effects have been economic. Official travel restrictions and concerns of infection are preventing people in rural areas from accessing markets to trade. Lack of movement is making it extremely difficult for people to make money from trading crops; in Guinea Bissau many families rely on cashew nut harvests for the vast majority of their annual incomes, but due to COVID-19, they are not able to trade this year. In both countries, the price of rice has skyrocketed, and protein sources are scarce. These factors are combining to create a dangerous situation for communities already experiencing food stress and malnutrition, with COVID-19 only making matters worse.  

To stave off malnutrition in the communities, we are providing emergency nutritional packages to young mothers and dramatically scaling up our training in sustainable agriculture. By training women in the villages to farm diverse and nutritious crops, how to harvest seeds and maintain soil quality, entire communities are benefiting from market gardens which provide much needed nutrition to families. The training also shows and encourages women to create their own household vegetable gardens, giving even more food security during these uncertain times.  

As we all know by this point, hand washing is absolutely critical in preventing further spread of the COVID-19 virus from person to person. Through a combination of working with communities to build public hand-washing stations in each village, and through our Health and Hygiene education programmewe have seen a huge increase in the number of people regularly washing their hands. Since April, over 1,800 people have adopted regular hand washing at key times. 

Empowering people with the information needed to stay safe and healthy is our number one priority. The rural location of the communities whom we are partnered with means that getting reliable information is often very difficult, with disinformation spreading rapidly. We are dedicated to supporting in-country health workers in the mission to get reliable and scientifically backed information on how to stay safe, to these remote communities. Our role is to support the national and regional health responses in both countries, so are working closely with health centres and health officials in Government to deliver these key messages and support 

If you would like to hear more about our work, or would like to volunteer, then you can email us at contact@wellfound.org.uk 

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Organization Information

WellFound

Location: London, Middlesex - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @opwellfound
Project Leader:
Antony Kingsley
London, Middlesex United Kingdom

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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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