August 7, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
Although Kailahun was declared Ebola free more than 200 days ago, stakeholders in the eastern district are not oblivious that the virus could return. Thus, in collaboration with Social Enterprise for Development (SEND) Foundation, they have identified challenges which could undermine their capacity to prevent a reoccurrence.
With funds provided by DFID’s Emergency Ebola Response Fund, through Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH), SEND facilitated drafting of the Kailahun Remote Villages Ebola Prevention Project plan, targeting 32 border crossing points.
Having reviewed and discussed the plan, participants highlighted delay by burial teams to attend to calls, inadequate Ebola sensitization, treatment of patients by herbalists, lack of equipment for hand washing in remote villages, poor monitoring arrangements at border crossing points, persistent treatment of the sick at home, unsafe burial practices and poor hygiene and sanitation, as some of the major challenges.
It was also discovered that with a population of 462,000, the district has only five burial teams and that they cannot reach remote villages during the raining season, while some communities lack means of communication.
“We are convinced that villages are willing to use the lessons learned from the Ebola crisis to modernize their burial practices. In every village, there are people responsible for bathing and dressing their dead as well as religious and traditional leaders who perform the final grave side rites,” they stated.
They called for ordinary men and women to be trained in incorporating Ebola sensitive practices into burial ceremonies, and that traditional leaders in all the 32 villages are willing to identify actors that will be involved in burial ceremonies.
The called on World Health Organization (WHO), Ministry of Health and Sanitation, UNICEF, Plan International, Welt Hunger Hilfe, Christian Aid and Save the Children, among others, to support the Kailahun Remote Villages Ebola Prevention Project to pilot modernization of burial ceremony and make them truly community owned.
“We are convinced that empowering communities to take responsibility for burial ceremony in an Ebola sensitive manner will release financial resources of government and donors to invest in strengthening health facilities, schools and increasing food production by our hardworking farmers,” they noted.
SEND’s Country Director, Joseph Ayamga said: “The Kailahun Remote Villages Ebola Prevention Project (KTVEPP) is our mechanism for ensuring the sustainability of Ebola Free Kailahun and contributing to making Sierra Leone a Zero Ebola country. The district has 56 remote crossing points with Liberia and Guinea and majority of these villages are only accessible by footpaths.”