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Stop Ebola: What you can do

by BRAC USA
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Stop Ebola: What you can do
Miatta, from Liberia, lost seven family members.
Miatta, from Liberia, lost seven family members.

Before the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014, BRAC had been active in Liberia and Sierra Leone for six years, running diverse programs including microfinance, education, agriculture, poultry and livestock, adolescent empowerment, and community health initiatives.

Over the course of the two-year epidemic, BRAC focused on providing long-term support to families whose lives and livelihoods were dramatically affected by the outbreak.

As the crisis deepened, BRAC staff and volunteers worked tirelessly to educate affected communities about how to stay safe and healthy. BRAC distributed supplies that included chlorine, buckets, gloves, and hand sanitizer. BRAC's frontline health workers assisted with national quarantine efforts and risked their lives persuading patients to seek medical help.

Community Health Promoters (CHPs) worked with WHO staff and the health ministries in Sierra Leone to coordinate Ebola responses across communities. They were diligent about tracking who came in and out, who got sick, and made sure everyone knew not to touch each other and to regularly wash their hands. They saved lives.

In the process, as is often the case, women in the impacted communities proved their resilience and commitment to their families and friends, providing and caring for them despite the hardship.

Miatta, living in Kakata, Liberia, lost seven family members to the Ebola outbreak. Tragically, one grandson died in her arms, and she now raises six other grandchildren who lost their parents.

Miatta also caught Ebola. While she remarkably survived, she faced stigmatization and ostracism when she returned to her community. Her story illustrates the resolve of so many West Africans to get back on their feet – even while they and their communities face future challenges.

BRAC’s CHP program is a longstanding, ongoing operation that will continue to provide services at the community level long after crises like these have ended. Ebola left the region with a significantly weaker health system, an extreme shortage of health care staff (seven percent of Sierra Leone’s health workers died during the epidemic), and a population that distrusts the very health services they need.

The epidemic also led to a decrease in health facility utilization: In 2014 the overall utilization of services decreased by 23 percent, sexual reproductive health services by 30 percent, antenatal visits by 27 percent, and in-facility births by 23 percent. Since the end of the epidemic, use of these facilities is increasing, but has yet to return to pre-epidemic levels because of a lack of confidence in the care patients believe they will receive.

With the loss of many skilled health workers during the Ebola epidemic, CHPs played a significant on-the-ground role in caring for their communities and linking community members to treatments units, clinics and hospitals; and in Sierra Leone their role has been formalized through recent government policies. The CHPs provided frontline essential health care, offered integrated community case management, and collaborated with the government to reconnect the community to the public healthcare system.

Khadija, a seamstress who today lives in Freetown, is another example of West African resilience. This is her story:

“My husband had two brothers living in Kenema and Makeni who I used to supply most of the cloth I used to make clothes to sell. When the crisis became intense, the brothers came to Freetown to attend a funeral. They did not know that the man who died had Ebola and they participated in washing the dead body. Both of them ended up getting sick and died.”

“At that point, I was faced with huge challenges all at once. We had to pay our rent, we lost money during the crisis, my husband’s brothers died suddenly, and we did not even have the privilege of communing in one place, as a family, to process their deaths.” (At the time, the government had imposed a ban on public gatherings.)

“That situation really affected me and my family. For someone like me who has to take my clients’ measurement for clothes, it became impossible because we had been warned not to touch other people. For tailoring, you can’t just look at the client and sew, you have to touch them. I had to close my shop.”

“So I faced a lot of challenges. I was very afraid. We were so afraid. Ebola really affected my business but I thank God that we are still here. No one got sick in the compound where we live and none of my employees got sick either. We give thanks to God for that.”

With the Ebola crisis safely behind it, West Africa is focused on rebuilding its ravaged health systems. BRAC continues to support that process by augmenting the government health systems through both referrals between CHPs and public facilities and by promoting the latter to community members.

Thanks in part to BRAC’s experience managing a robust CHP program and its rapport with the community, the Government of Sierra Leone has asked BRAC to expand its health program to Kono District, a remote and poor region, to help meet the needs of the community there.

On behalf of Miatta, Khadija, and the thousands of lives saved or improved, thank you for supporting this project on GlobalGiving. While BRAC’s Ebola response has ended, the community health promoter program will continue. If you wish to continue to support it, please visit the BRAC USA donate page. To learn more about the women who led their communities during the outbreak, please visit After Ebola.

Khadija survived Ebola to re-open her shop.
Khadija survived Ebola to re-open her shop.

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Survivors gather with BRAC staff
Survivors gather with BRAC staff

Thank you to all of our GlobalGiving supporters who have enabled us to not only provide emergency response during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, but also long-term recovery support to people living in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

BRAC’s psychosocial support network and programming geared towards Ebola survivors and their families has been met with a strong response. Communities across Sierra Leone and Liberia have sought after these services and we are looking to grow, strengthen and expand our reach.

Your support has helped improve wellbeing, alleviate stress, enhance coping skills, and build resilience of people affected by the Ebola outbreak including survivors of the disease. You have also helped improve community attitudes to reduce stigmatization of survivors to let people know that Ebola survivors aren't contagious.

Sumah is an Ebola survivor who has benefitted from BRAC’s psychosocial support program. Here is her story:

In June 2014 during the peak of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sumah’s husband came home from the farm not feeling well. Sumah stays in Grand Cape Mount county in Liberia where she used to grow and sell vegetables to earn a living. Sumah had seen awareness campaigns about the symptoms of Ebola and suspected her husband had contracted the virus. Still, Sumah nursed her husband at home. As his condition worsened, he was taken away to an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU).

A few days later, Sumah also came down with a fever and began feeling joint pain. She was also taken to the treatment unit. Sumah’s husband passed away in the ETU. Sumah was left alone to take care of their three children.

Sumah was released from the ETU and BRAC recruited her as a volunteer to raise awareness about the disease in her community. Sumah received psychosocial support training through BRAC where she learned how to provide psychological help to others.

“This work I started with BRAC has made me feel better,” Sumah said. “I reach out to other people in the communities, sensitizing them on prevention and first aid, and help people to have hope, not to feel discouraged.”

The financial support provided by BRAC helped Sumah save enough money to start a small business selling oil. The business is going well and Sumah is now able to send one of her children to school once again.

“I appreciate BRAC for giving me this opportunity to participate in the program,” Sumah said. “It’s through this project that I am now happy, not so sad like before. I no longer have to worry about what to eat and I can send one child to school and the others will when school opens next. I have saved some money to invest in my business. My aim is to have a big shop.”

On January 14, the World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola-free. Sierra Leone has had four reported cases in the last few weeks. These recent outbreaks in Sierra Leone have been rapidly controlled, as these countries are now experts in dealing with Ebola. This is a testament to the importance of community ownership and engagement when new outbreaks occur. 

Psychosocial support is still necessary for survivors to deal with post-traumatic stress. We need to keep educating communities to ensure Ebola survivors aren't stigmatized or outcast because of misinformation. With your support, we can continue working with people most in need.

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Kulako, an Ebola survivor in Sierra Leone
Kulako, an Ebola survivor in Sierra Leone

This week, the last remaining Ebola survivors in Liberia were released from the hospital. Prior to this most recent outbreak in late June – six cases with two fatalities – Liberia had not seen a case of Ebola since March. While some may see the recent resurgence as a setback, Liberia's rapid and effective response demonstrates the success of measures implemented by the national government, the international community, and NGOs operating in Liberia. It also shows how community mobilization and trust-building can reshape the course of an epidemic.

Liberia cannot officially be declared Ebola-free until next month (42 days from the last identified case), and it – along with its neighbors Sierra Leone and Guinea – has a long road ahead to rebuild its health system and economy. But Liberia's progress serves as an inspiring illustration of what collaboration and determination can accomplish in the face of human suffering.

With your support, BRAC has been working in both Liberia and Sierra Leone to rebuild health systems, empower disenfranchised teenage girls, provide counseling to survivors, and fuel economic growth through small loans and business development.

Since the outbreak in May 2014, Ebola has claimed 11,276 lives. Ebola leaves in its wake orphaned children, families torn apart, and stigmatized survivors. BRAC, along with other partners, are training mental health clinicians, community leaders, and staff to offer necessary psychosocial support to survivors and victims’ families. Group counseling sessions and individual meetings create open discussions to help families cope. To date, BRAC has counseled 702 orphans and has held 226 group sessions over three months and will grow to reach 68,582 people.

In some cases, patients in quarantine come home to find their families safe and Ebola-free. Unfortunately, many others return to devastating circumstances. Kulako, a woman from the town of Kumala, Sierra Leone, describes her experience:

“I had four children, and I caught Ebola from one of them. All of my children died.” Kulako survived the Ebola virus, but she is still recovering. With BRAC’s support, survivors like Kulako will begin to rebuild their lives.

Thank you for helping to stop the spread of Ebola and alleviate the physical and emotional pain suffered by the thousands affected. To view more survivor stories from the areas BRAC works in visit the link below.

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Fatu Whongle, pig farmer in Sierra Leone 4/2014
Fatu Whongle, pig farmer in Sierra Leone 4/2014

With a six-year history in West Africa, BRAC has reached more than a million people in nearly every province of Sierra Leone and Liberia before the Ebola outbreak began. Now, its efforts and network are instrumental in helping West Africans rebuild. With support from GlobalGiving donors we have started survivor support programs to offer psycho-social support and combat community stigmatization, We are taking measures to fuel economic growth through cash transfers and fixing broken supply chains, and we are reaching populations left especially vulnerable after the outbreak, such as orphans, the disabled, as well as women and girls. We are grateful for your support, but need your help to continue this work.

As of March 2015, there were 21,443 confirmed cases of Ebola and a total of 8,084 deaths in Liberia and Sierra Leone combined. But beyond the death tolls, economies in both countries have taken a hit. In October, the World Bank forecasted that the economic impact of the outbreak could cost West Africa $33 billion.

The agriculture sector illustrates how the supply-chain breakdown continues to impact the economy. When governments closed or restricted cross-border transactions, there was a scarcity of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, seeds and agro-tools. This caused a drop in output from farming activities and also disrupted the regular farming cycle. BRAC agriculture operations resumed at the end of last year but farmers are still struggling to sell their produce in the market due to a price hike for limited food supplies. In addition, farmers who survived Ebola returned to find their livestock stolen, eaten or dead, and their businesses ruined.

BRAC’s recovery programs targets farmers through training and improving supply chains. Financial and credit support for farmers that have been directly affected by the outbreak will also be provided. BRAC is looking to raise funds to provide cash transfers to the farmers and livestock promoters in order to support household income and help replace raw inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers, or livestock.

The adolescent population is especially vulnerable, particularly girls. There have been increased reports of teenage pregnancy during the outbreak when girls weren’t in school. Girls were also put at risk due to their traditional roles as caretakers, as they were required to take care of infected family members. Many adolescents also fear that they will not be able to afford schools following the outbreak, and are being forced into the role of heads of household in the wake of the death of their parents or older siblings. BRAC’s existing Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) program, targets girls between the ages of 10 to 24, equipping them with life skills, financial literacy, and job training to start their own businesses. After the outbreak, we are incorporating new components like psycho-social support to empower adolescent female survivors their families, and orphaned girls.

With support from UNICEF and the Malala Fund, BRAC is using its ELA clubs as safe spaces for radio schools. Read more about the initiative on NPR.

My colleague, Aissatou Diallo, returned from Liberia in January and noted that she was astounded by the resilience of the human spirit. Thank you for supporting the people in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We apologize that this report is delayed, we were waiting to hear back regarding progress from the field.

Girls empowerment club in Sierra Leone
Girls empowerment club in Sierra Leone
Liberia feed mill worker
Liberia feed mill worker
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BRAC is responding to the ongoing West Africa Ebola outbreak, which has infected over 14,000 and killed over 5,000 people. The capacity to deal with health emergencies must be built and maintained at the local level, and therefore BRAC is training our existing network of 6,000 community leaders to raise awareness and stop the spread of the disease.Tackling the Ebola virus rests on four pillars: avoidance, early detection, isolation and safe burials.

With the help of Global Giving supporters, BRAC has distributed Ebola hygiene messages in local languages to remote areas, conducted street theatre and delivered radio broadcasts about the symptoms of Ebola and the responses that are necessary to keep people safe and reduce the spread of the disease. In addition, BRAC has donated supplies including gloves, chlorine, face masks and buckets with taps for hand washing.

BRAC has nearly 1,000 community health promoters in Sierra Leone and Liberia. These self-employed women, committed to the protection of their own communities, are the best front-line defence against Ebola. BRAC’s Ebola response in Liberia and Sierra Leone consists of the following elements:

  • Capacity building and training: Training provided to the existing force of nearly 6,000 BRAC community promoters, youth leaders, school teachers and Ebola survivors enables them to become change makers, sharing Ebola awareness messages and knowledge in their communities.
  • Community sensitization and outreach: BRAC’s community Ebola prevention workers will engage in awareness and sensitization training interventions, focusing on community and village leaders, survivors, women and children. Activities will promote the benefits of early presentation of suspected patients at Ebola facilities and the need for safe, culturally acceptable burial practices through leaflets, flyers, posters, billboards, radio jingles and theatre.
  • Ensuring adequate supplies are available:BRAC has assisted in the distribution of essential Ebola-related health commodities including gloves, buckets and chlorine.
  • Psychosocial support: BRAC plans to provide psychosocial support to affected community members including family members, orphans and survivors.
  • Building economic and social resilience for the future: beyond containment of Ebola, BRAC is planning long-term to support communities against future shocks. This includes working to develop a higher quality, integrated health system, assisting affected communities with livelihood support to enable their recovery, promoting financial inclusion and entrepreneurial capital through access to microfinance and strengthening social protection mechanisms by provide Ebola affected communities with food and cash transfers.

Thank you for continuing to support our efforts, we will continue to provide updates as the situation on the ground changes.

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Organization Information

BRAC USA

Location: New York, NY - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Walid Sghari
Finance Manager
New York, NY United States

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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