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.