Interview with Francis Koroma, Rogbain Community, Shebora Chiefdom, Bombali District, Sierra Leone
10th December 2014
Francis Koroma, 28, comes from Bombali, the most dangerous District in Sierra Leone in terms of Ebola contamination rates.
At the beginning of the national civil war – a brutal conflict spanning from 1991-2002 that left behind a fractured political system and 70% of the population living in extreme poverty – Francis was only 11 years old. The rebel groups irrupted in his home chiefdom, and captured him as one of their young soldiers. After several months of ruthless abduction, Francis gathered enough courage to escape the troops, an adventure that took him weeks, as he had to follow the direction of river which guided him home in the safety of this family.
The war ended in 2001, leaving devastated resources, finished with 50,000 people’s lives and about hundreds of impaired. After this experience, Francis decided to study Development at University, and dreamt of working with an NGO to help communities improve their situation.
Shortly after Francis finished his studies in 2013, the Ebola outbreak started, that was March 2014.
Since then the situation has not been any easier. Francis’ family lived in a Chiefdom where an Ebola infected women was buried at the very beginning of the outbreak. Unfortunately, many community people were in touch with the victim during her sickness and her death. Her corpse was washed according to tradition by the women of the village, amongst whom were Francis’ mother and sisters.
Everybody who had come in touch with the corpse got infected: over 166 people in the community. Only 25 survived.
His family had been devastated: his mother, brothers, sisters, wife and son have been victims of Ebola.
Francis himself got infected, but he as aware of the emergency service, and called 117. An ambulance picked him up and took him to a hospital in Kailahun District, where he spent two weeks with critical health fighting for his life. With the necessary medical care and inner strength, Francis has survived. Today, Francis is one of many survivors.
As soon as he got better he got in touch with Restless Development and engaged in the Ebola Response Programme as a community mobiliser. He has been trained, provided safety and sensitization equipment, and has been deployed to different communities within his Chiefdom.
Over 1,500 more mobilisers are engaged in the same way as Francis, and he is now a role model for them, who can speak from his own experience to the youth and the communities themselves.
In spite of all the suffering Francis has gone through, he has found a way forward with Restless Development. He is happy to be working for an NGO – his meaningful support in this crisis will make a difference in communities, encouraging safe practices to avoid the propagation of Ebola.
However, Sierra Leone, with over 6 million inhabitants from which an estimate 60 percent lives in the rural areas still needs the intervention and support from donors to reach out to everybody, informing about the existence of this fatal disease, and engaging community action to protect themselves and their country. The external support remains crucial to the eradication of Ebola as an immediate need. However, a country with strong institutions and health system will be in a better position to face disease, malnutrition and a general lack of hygiene education.
Restless Development stands ready to support Sierra Leone win this fight, and build a healthy nation through engaged and educated youth.