EducAid today: 16th October 2014

Since the first case was confirmed in Sierra Leone on 25th
May, the swift acceleration of the Ebola virus across the country and Western
Africa has seemingly caught both governments and the international community
off-guard. Ebola has claimed around 1183 lives in Sierra Leone, and 4493
world-wide, and has one of the lowest survival rates of all communicable
diseases in the world.
With an ever-increasing speed of transmission, and a
panicked population, the President’s State House in Sierra Leone declared a
state of emergency on 30th July[1]. The
state of emergency prohibited the public gathering of more than 5 people for
anything other than religious meetings or Ebola sensitization groups. As a
product of this, schools themselves were closed all around the country for what
is the foreseeable future.
EducAid’s holistic program of care extends beyond the
traditional bounds of education. Due, in part, to the severe effects of the
civil war that ended in 2002, many of our students do not have a home to return
to during the summer holidays. We typically accommodate between half and two
thirds of our 3000+ students and provide food, shelter, pastoral, and medical
care throughout the year. Beyond this, we have a body of full-time staff members
that are also often permanent residents. Due to this fact, we still have a resident
population on our sites throughout Sierra Leone.
To give you a clearer picture of the position we are
in, we have collected some figures to show you exactly the challenges that we
are facing in the country.
Lumley
Magbeni
Rolal
Rogbere
Maronka
4 Ms
Total
Number of Students &
Staff Week ending 12/10/2014
Male Staff
32
10
26
14
13
19
114
Female Staff
8
2
3
5
6
5
29
Male Students
19
20
36
36
23
0
134
Female Students
21
12
12
17
21
0
83
Total
80
44
77
72
63
24
360
We are happy with the ratio of staff to students on
all of our sites. We are able to contain the most vulnerable members of the
programme, our students, with the strong staff presence. The numbers break down
like this:
Lumley
Magbeni
Rolal
Rogbere
Maronka
4 Ms
Overall
Number of Students & Staff Week ending
12/10/2014
Staff
40
12
29
19
19
24
90
Students
40
32
48
53
44
0
134
Ratio
1:1
1:3
3:5
2:5
2:5
n/a
2:3
There are several misgivings and rumours that are in circulation
around Ebola – something that we will tackle in later blog posts – however, the
critical point about Ebola transmission is that it can only be spread by
symptomatic carriers of the disease. In other words, if someone is displaying
obvious signs of the contagion (i.e. high fever, red eyes, purple blotches/rashes,
vomiting, internal and external bleeding), they are then contagious. That
contagion can be carried through the exchange of bodily fluids. If you would
like more information on the contagion, read this Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (CDC) post: Facts About Ebola,
or Dr. Bausch discussing the situation in Sierra Leone: PODCAST:
Get your facts straight about Ebola
.
The potency of the virus makes the proximity of known
Ebola cases to our locations extremely important, so we have collected data
from our site coordinators in Sierra Leone to report it to you.
Lumley
Magbeni
Rolal
Rogbere
Maronka
4 Ms
Distance
0 miles
¼ mile
3 houses away
4-5 miles
1 ½  miles
5+ miles
The proximity of the virus makes it a very real threat. Lumley, our
school in Freetown, is in the thick of the outbreak. With cramped urban conditions
and poor sanitary situations surrounding the school, the staff and students
have to be extremely cautious. 4-5 miles away from Rogbere is Waterloo, a major
junction on the Masiaka-Yonibana Highway linking Freetown to the south and east
of the country, and there they have recorded a huge number of cases. In Rolal,
Ebola is in the village; the house has been contained but the threat is present.
In order to combat this threat, we have implemented a number of strict
protocols for the protection of our staff and students. We will be explaining
our protocol in detail in tomorrow’s blog post.
One point that is seldom documented in the mainstream western
media is the ever-increasing difficulty of getting on with a normal life in
Sierra Leone. We are faced with all sorts of new challenges when facing a
country in quarantine and crisis. For example, the cost of living has increased
dramatically as the supply of food has been hit by travel restrictions of
quarantine, markets have been closed, and imports stopped or delayed. Rice, for
example, has increased from 120,000 leones to 160,000 leones.
In addition to the spiraling cost of food and other
essentials, Ebola has necessarily consumed healthcare centres in Sierra Leone. What
previously could have been a perfectly manageable illness, such as Malaria, is
transformed in to a life-threatening situation. Not only is there an access
issue, the symptoms of Malaria appear much like those of the early stages of
Ebola. Any sufferer of the former is potentially stigmatised with the curse of
Ebola and, unless identified soon after that, is condemned to share the same
fate.
Speaking to Nature,
Estrella Lasry of Médicins sans
Frontières explained that, “routine health care has collapsed during the
outbreak, because both patients and providers have shunned clinics for fear of
infection. As a result, tens of thousands of people could die from treatable
causes…those include complications of childbirth; trauma and other acute
conditions requiring surgery, causes such as diarrhoeal disease, respiratory viruses,
and especially malaria.”[2]
To counteract this disturbing reality appearing in our
schools, and as part of our preventative protocol, we have chosen to put all of
our residents on to anti-malarial prophylaxis, as well as a bi-weekly dose of
Vitamin supplements to fend off the threat of other disease. If we can fend off
the threat of Ebola, and can keep ourselves supplied with the necessary
resources listed above, we should be able to protect ourselves from Ebola.
What we do have an abundance of, however, is
fantastically dedicated, disciplined, and well-trained staff. It is testament
to the great work that we have done over the past 15 years that our alumni are
now assisting the nation in matters of Ebola emergency. Read our blog post
coming out later about Augustine Bundor, an EducAid alumni who studies
medicine, who is now leading the line of Ebola detection in Lungi Airport. That
post will be with you later today.
This post is the first of a
set of weekly updates where we will be bringing you the most important news
from in and around our school sites. The EducAid network covers 9 schools
across the country. Through our blog we will bring you our stories of how life
is inside, and outside of our schools.
Follow our blog at
www.educaid.org.uk/news
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