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Sarah Tamba: ‘I take care of six Ebola orphans’

June 1, 2015 By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk) reporting from Kailahun

Sarah Tamba is the eldest survivor of six children who lost both parents to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Kailahun. It was their mother, Sia Jimmy, who first passed away in May 2014, less than a week after the first confirmed Ebola case was recorded in the district and Sierra Leone as a whole. Soon, their father, Sahr, contracted the disease and also died.

Sarah, 22, is now serving as the head of the family, looking after her six brothers and sisters: Sahr, Francis, Moses, Paul, Jamie and Sarta Jimmy. As with many cases of Ebola orphans, no support from relatives is forthcoming and the family has not been benefitting from the regular social protection packages from the government.

Sarah is a student at the Kissi Bendu Secondary School, while the rest of the children are in primary school. The four boys are attending the Spiritual Life Primary School and the two girls are in the Tollie Primary School.

As a student Sarah has no sustainable source of income to enable her support herself and the rest of the family. With no help from relatives either, Sarah is going through a lot of difficulty and as a young woman she has become very vulnerable.

“It is hard for me and it makes me unhappy every day,” she laments.

However, with support from OSIWA, Christian Aid through ICCO and Weitblick Germany, the Kailahun Women in Governance Network (KWIGN) and SEND Foundation Sierra Leone supported Sarah and her family with food and non-food items, school materials such as school bags, water bottles, books, pens and pencils, and more condiments.

In addition, for the past three (3) months, they have received monthly stipends of two hundred thousand Leones to enable the family meet basic needs such as putting food on the table daily.

According to SEND Sierra Leone officials, this support will continue for another three (3) months.

Furthermore, the KWIGN and SEND Sierra Leone staff make monthly visits to the family, providing psycho-social counselling to motivate and to help them understand the negative consequences of the disease and how to make choices that benefit them all.

Sarah is also part of the foster families trained on childcare and support, and the children are encouraged to continue school in order to enable them empower themselves for life and to live responsible lives.

Unfortunately, the future of these children is unpredictable. In three (3) months’ time, the OSIWA, Christian Aid, and Weitblick funds will stop. Although SEND Sierra Leone and KWIGN have structures to support orphans and vulnerable women and children to live resilient and thriving lives, they are unable to support 202 survivors and 259 orphans identified in Kailahun District due to limited resources.

Meanwhile, KWIGN and SEND Sierra Leone are also operating an Allowance Scheme supported by OSIWA and Weitblick Germany. The scheme is currently supporting six (6) foster families with 28 orphans. Each of these foster families has received training in child care to enable them provide care and support to orphans just as they care for their own children to grow up and live responsible lives.

The monthly stipends are expected to last for 6 months, from March to August 2015. For the past three months, six (6) foster families received the monthly stipends and basically used the money to buy food items and to support the daily needs of the family and the children. Some foster families, the women in particular, used the stipends to expand their petty businesses.

All the foster families interviewed said that the stipends support the basic needs of their families and provide them with the leeway to engage in agricultural activities, such as the cultivation of rice, cassava and beans, to have enough food for the next season.

Some of the foster families are also able to use part of the money to get treatment for their children when they fall sick. They are able to send them to the hospital and foot the medical bills.

Other women who were already petty traders used the monthly stipends to expand on their businesses to be able to provide support to their own children and the orphans.

The monthly support will end in August 2015.

Credit: DEJA-SL