Support group for Ebola Relief workers
An IsraAID Support Program for Ebola Affected Communities in West Africa
The Ebola crisis in West Africa has had massive and devastating effects on the entire region. As of the 25th of November 2014 there have been 5,524 confirmed cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, and 1,397 deaths (according to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Sierra Leone (MOHS)). In addition, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak has also caused widespread stress and trauma in the affected countries, where families of infected patients have been completely isolated by their communities, with some even resorting to violence. The crisis is compounded by the realities of the affected country, which has recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability, has fragile health system structures and social protection networks, as well as limited human and infrastructural resources.
In September 2014, IsraAID arrived in Sierra Leone to support the psycho-social needs of affected communities, healthcare workers, and Ebola survivors.
During September 2014, an IsraAID team arrived to Sierra Leone for the first needs assessment following the Ebola outbreak.
Following IsraAID’s inclusive policy of corporate-based analysis and piloting, IsraAID’s team met and conducted introductory MHPSS workshops with different actors in the Ministries of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), Social Welfare, Gender, and Child Affairs (MSWGCA), and Education, Science and Technology (MEST) as well as the social work department in Fourah Bay College - the leading university in West Africa, as well as leading local and international actors such as G.O.A.L., UNICEF, WHO, AGI, and CDC to better understand the MHPSS needs and the capacity of local responders.
In October 2014, IsraAID was requested by the First Lady of Sierra Leone – Ms. Sia Koroma, a Psychiatric Nurse by profession, to develop a pilot 2-day workshop to introduce to national ministries basic notions of stress management, resilience, and self-care. During this workshop, nearly 100% of participants (the First Lady included) expressed the need for more knowledge and practical tools to address the overwhelming emotional and psychological challenges created by the EVD crisis. In addition, during a segment on vicarious trauma, government officials (especially those from MOH) strongly advocated for training on self-care to support a health apparatus overwhelmed, exhausted, and traumatized by being on the frontlines of an emergency crisis for over 5 months. These needs were further emphasized during coordination meetings with national and international actors at the MHPSS pillar group, headed by UNICEF and the MSWGCA.
As a result, IsraAID was requested by the Office of the First Lady (OFL), and international actors, to take a lead role on MHPSS service-provider training and supervision.
The ultimate goal of the project is to mitigate the psychological impact of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on the affected population, emphasizing survivors and service providers.
To do so in a sustainable manner, IsraAID will focus on strengthening the existing MHPSS structures in Sierra Leone through capacity-building. At the same time, to respond to the immediate needs of the on-going EVD emergency, and to mitigate the already devastating social, psychological, and emotional impact of EVD on the affected populations, IsraAID will facilitate the establishment of peer-based support networks for EVD-related service-providers.
The main expected outcomes of the project will be that:
- EVD affected persons (including children and survivors, their families, and their communities) and relevant service providers have strengthened coping mechanisms and resilience, and are receiving appropriate MHPSS support.
- Service-providers involved in EVD mitigation are conscious of the dangers of vicarious trauma and are part of self-care peer-based support networks.
Since arriving in Sierra Leone in September 2014, IsraAID has accomplished the following:
- Needs assessment and introductory workshops
- IsraAID conducted several introductory sessions with operators from the 117 as well as INGO social workers.
- Awareness raising and sensitization of government ministries to the psycho-social impact of Ebola
- In partnership with the Office of the First Lady, IsraAID organized a 2 day workshop for 22 high level representatives of leading government ministries and organizations, organized and attended by the First Lady of Sierra Leone herself.
- Training and self-care for healthcare workers and service providers
- Pilot training workshops for 60+ social workers and counsellors from several international organizations
- Pilot 2 day training/self-care workshop for 23 healthcare workers from the PCM Hospital Ebola isolation unit in Freetown, Sierra Leone
- Facilitated 1 day of a 3 day workshop by the national Mental Health Coalition for 56 national PSS service providers
- Strengthening the capacity of the 117 national emergency call center
- Launching of a peer-support program for 150 call center operators
- Development of a training manual for the hotline training
- Psycho-Social Support (PSS) and self-care group facilitation for survivors
- Establishment of a 10 member survivor group in Freetown that meet regularly and are facilitated by IsraAID PSS Specialists.
- Engagement of social work students from local universities
- Oriented, interviewed, and selected 12 social work interns who will be trained and mentored by IsraAID’s psycho-social team.
Training for group facilitators