On 7th November, Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free by the World Health Organisation. This means that 42 days have now passed with no new cases reported in Sierra Leone. This follows a tragic period of nearly 4,000 deaths as a result of the lethal virus.
The end of Ebola is fantastic news, and our special thanks goes to our partner, Street Child, who took a leading role in supporting thousands of communities – including ELoH’s beneficiaries – during the emergency period.
Sierra Leone is home to our biggest project. Together with Street Child we have been supporting 147 children in four locations across the country since mid-2012. Read more about our project to provide prosthetic legs, access to surgery and education here. As with all communities across Sierra Leone, our beneficiaries faced a grave threat to their health and safety during the height of the Ebola crisis. As a result, ELoH provided an emergency donation of £9,817 in September 2014 to ensure all was being done to keep them and their families safe.
We are very proud to report that out of the 147 children we support, all 147 are currently in school. Before our project began, less than 10% were in full time education.
Schools then closed during the Ebola outbreak and it was a significant achievement that our social workers were able to re-engage all our beneficiaries and help them return to school after the outbreak ended. Education is key to ensuring that our beneficiaries grow up to be self-sufficient members of society – helping lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
We also provide beneficiaries’ families with small business grants and business training to help them set up their own businesses. The aim of this scheme is to enable parents to pay their children’s school fees in the long run, while ELoH focuses on providing support for their medical care until each child stops growing.
We are delighted that all family businesses are continuing to trade despite the devastating effects that Ebola had on Sierra Leone’s economy. Some businesses have had significant success and have been able to save high levels of profit which will be re-invested and used for educational costs.
However, the environment remains challenging and businesses of Ebola survivors were often negatively affected by stigma in the community during the outbreak. Our team continues to work with them and their communities to help them get back on track.
A key element of our project is the provision of medical care, with the aim of helping child amputees to walk and become mobile again.
Sadly, but understandably, this has been the part of the project most severely affected by the Ebola outbreak. Sierra Leone’s already weak health infrastructure was hit hard by Ebola with many health workers and doctors losing their lives trying to save others.
We have been working hard to re-commence the fitting of prosthetic legs for our beneficiaries who need new limbs, which had to stop during the Ebola outbreak because of a shortage of prosthetists and equipment and a widespread fear of visiting hospitals in the population.
Despite the difficult circumstances, we have been able, through Street Child, to provide crutches for our beneficiaries to ensure they have a degree of mobility until we can ensure the safe and proper provision of prosthetic limbs.
We have also provided nine beneficiaries with life-saving surgeries. Bone protrusions, in which the residual bone grows through the end of the stump, are common and very dangerous complications many growing child amputees face. They can result in fatal infections if they are not treated.
On top of the nine surgeries, we are in the process of carrying out a further eight surgeries. These are life-saving interventions and we are very proud of the team’s success in providing these surgeries in the current climate.
Now that Sierra Leone has been declared Ebola-free, Street Child is working very hard to restart our prosthetic fitting programme imminently. We are monitoring progress closely and look forward to updating you again soon.
We would like to thank all our supporters for their commitment to our charity in this difficult time. The world faced an unprecedented health emergency when the Ebola outbreak hit West Africa last year, and we are counting on you to help us continue our vital work as Sierra Leone returns to normality.