Education from locals for locals against Ebola prevents deadly disease from spreading
By Jennifer Schlueter
For a few years now, HLR Media’s founder Von Raees has been supporting Sarah Culberson’s Kposowa foundation, rebuilding Bumpe High School in Sierra Leone, which had been destroyed in the country’s civil war, and supporting its students’ education. Since the Ebola outbreak, however, the organization’s focus has now shifted to educating all villages in the Bumpe district to prevent the virus from spreading. Whereas Nigeria and Senegal have been declared Ebola-free in October, the epidemic is unstoppable in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
To receive first-hand information from a local, I skyped with Sarah Culberson’s brother and Kposowa representative Hindo in Sierra Leone. He told me that he started an Ebola sensitization project in August. Instead of enjoying his vacation from school, Hindo realized the increasing danger and spreading of the dangerous virus, and decided to print posters that he could distribute in as many places as possible to inform people and villagers, some of them who didn’t even know about Ebola at all. The posters explain the disease, its symptoms, prevention and treatment methods. As Hindo went along, people were asking him for hand washing stations, which had already been placed everywhere in big cities, however, not in villages. To fund more posters and hand washing stations with buckets, Dettol (an antiseptic liquid), and chlorine, Hindo started his own IndieGoGo campaign and asked his sister Sarah for additional help. Sarah thus switched her foundation’s focus on assisting Hindo with his sensitization project.
While other organizations focus on treating already ill patients, Hindo’s mission is to treat the epidemic from its core by informing local villagers and thus preventing new infections. This method has proven to be extremely successful because until today, Hindo’s target area, the Bumpe district, has the lowest number of newest infections in all of Sierra Leone: Only 5 people, all of whom brought in the disease from outside, have been diagnosed. They were quickly contained, and therefore prevented from spreading.
However, as Hindo updated us last week, Ebola is unable to be contained around his districts and quickly keeps spreading:
“The Baomahun village outbreak is spreading horribly in the other villages and we are on restless efforts to contain it.
The nurse who came from Freetown with the infection and died in Baomahun village which is causing the outbreak, was a negligence on the part of the government’s medical team. […] A bike rider has died of the infection two days ago who is said to have transported the infected folks from Baomahun to another village. The bike rider’s host is now infected and he is presently undergoing treatments.
Today, I dispatched 3 policemen, one government contact tracer, and the section chief to line list all contacts for a quick quarantine to contain the situation. As I’m typing, we have 4 folks whose case are probable and I’ve requested for an ambulance to carry them for a test their blood before quarantine. The chief of the village is presently in the cell for breaking the bye-law of accepting strangers in his village. He will pay a fine of $120 for not executing the bye-law! […]
The government contact tracers are not effective to follow-up because there is no mobility given to them. We need one motorbike and protective resources so that the contact tracers can be effective. Our government is sick to handle the Ebola situation. It’s been 3 days now that suspected folks have been waiting for ambulance so that they can be taken for test. I was in Bo today to see the government coordinator for our area and he promised that the ambulance will be available 7am tomorrow.
Quarantine process is slow…probably causing rampant spread. When an outbreak occurs, it takes 10 days or more before contacts are isolated. The reason is that government is slow to send resources or food to quarantine homes. I need resources to buy food on stand -by to do quick quarantine or isolation before contacts infects others from daily movement.
Few of our leaders here are not proactive at all. […]”
Hindo told me that so far he has reached 90 villages out of 240-270 in the Ngao Chiefdom in Bumpe. The district is parted in 10 sections, which consist of villages. In November, Hindo organized a meeting with all section chiefs to educate them about Ebola, and to spread the awareness about the disease.
Currently, you are not supposed to leave the Bumpe district. If you do, and are trying to re-enter, you will have to go through thorough investigations of your identity and whereabouts. This is a safety measure in order to prevent quarantine fugitives from entering Ebola-free zones. As another precaution, schools in Sierra Leone are closed, most companies too; however, some shops are still open.
Since people in Sierra Leone can be superstitious or believe in conspiracy theories that the disease was purposefully spread by the government, it is important to send out trustworthy, educated locals, who speak the native language, to inform them about Ebola. Thanks to his official position as a chief’s son, Hindo is known and trusted by local residents, and thus, it is easy for him to gather and educate them.
To leave a lasting impression on the villagers, and to show them the gravity of Ebola, Hindo shows photos of the physical conditions of Ebola patients. He also educates them about survivors and lets them know that if you report a case early enough, you will have the chance to conquer the disease. Additionally, Hindo follows up if the hand washing stations are used correctly. To keep himself, his family, and the people in his district safe, Hindo is reaching out to as many villages as he can. Daily, he rides to them on his motorcycle, and has also formed a team of locals to help him. In order for him to print more posters, and purchase buckets and hygiene supplies for people, Hindo is asking for your donations. You can help by visting this link: www.healwestafrica.com .
More information and updates with pictures from Hindo can also be found here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Global-Education-and-Justice-Network/