This December, in a greatly anticipated announcement, from a short list which included the Ferguson protesters, the Kurdish president Massoud Barzani, and Apple CEO Tom Cook, it was decided that Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ 2014 should not be awarded to an individual; instead the recognition has been awarded to the Ebola healthcare workers. Many of whom are doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, burial teams and volunteers risking their lives to fight the biggest outbreak of the deadly virus in history.
With a shortage of treatment centres and trained staff, Sierra Leone was the worst affected nation to be hit by Ebola. We first started our emergency response in Sierra Leone six months ago, and we now have 102 staff, 40 interns and over 1,700 volunteers working on the ground. They have been trained to deliver life-saving messages to communities, empowering local people, increasing their awareness, and leading them to take their own action against Ebola.
Using our already incredibly strong network of volunteers, we have continued to expand our network in order to deliver a sophisticated response led by our volunteer mobilisers. Their work in communities includes:
• Body mapping- The community maps the parts of the body which suffer when infected with EVD (Ebola Virus Disease).
• Burial Role Plan- The community recreates a burial situation where risks (i.e. cleaning the corps) are identified.
• Ebola Spread- The different methods of transmission are discussed.
• Survivor Role Play- Communities need to understand that survivors don’t represent a risk; they are an asset as they have been proved immune to re-contracting EVD.
• PPE Information (Personal Protection Equipment)- The white suits and equipment worn by health workers have been the subject of great fear among people since the outbreak. Initially nobody understood the purpose of the equipment, or the fact that a person is inside, so it is vital to give people this information to help eradicate fear in communities.
Sara Benavent, Restless Development Emergency Coordinator in Sierra Leone, says “Our mobilisers' biggest achievement is building trust with the national and international institutions leading the Ebola response. Before, Ebola virus infected community members would not come back to their communities, creating fear and distrust. This was due a number of reasons, amongst which included an overwhelmed medical care system and the inadequacy of the initial health response in the country.”
We would like to personally celebrate and thank each of our own incredibly brave Sierra Leonean volunteers and Restless Development staff members, who are courageously leading our emergency response. With the great impact the outbreak has had on communities, our volunteers have been able to deliver vital life-saving messages to hard-to-reach districts, fighting to save not only their own communities, but hundreds more.
The medical response is growing, but we need to continue to reach remote areas so that every Sierra Leonean is empowered with knowledge about the disease and prevention methods. Local talent is vital to stop the spread; this has been proven through our volunteer’s, whose willingness and positivity is a testament to their heroic bravery.
READ ABOUT WHAT SOME OF OUR VOLUNTEERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT WORKING IN OUR EBOLA RESPONSE TEAM:
The crisis is still not over, our staff and volunteers continue to work around the clock to scale up the response.