Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ebola, Education, EducAid

The sort of image that is causing panic and fear
Ebola - what is the reality of the situation on the ground?
For the last six months and more, ebola has been found infecting and causing the deaths of people in Guinea, Liberia and eventually Sierra Leone.
What is ebola? Ebola is a potentially deadly virus carried by primates and is transmitted mostly through contact with the body fluids of an infected and seriously ill person.  However, unless you are regularly in contact with ebola patients, it is quite a difficult disease to actually contract.  Basic precautions can contain it.  Previously regarded as all but 100% fatal, there are now many many cases where treatment has been administered quickly and patients have recovered.
A couple of days ago, the President of Sierra Leone declared a State of Emergency.  Why?
Until the president took this step, many Sierra Leoneans did not believe in the existence of ebola. Reckless unthinking behaviour was causing the spread of the virus. Understanding about health, healthcare and sickness issues is extremely low in general.  (e.g. There are even educated people who talk about getting malaria from oranges or Guinness.)  People die regularly of nothing and everything. Those who read this blog regularly will have noticed that this year alone we have had a stream of needless deaths because of poor health care and poor thinking on the part of medical practitioners.  No surprise then, if an illness like ebola is not handled with logic, professionalism, calm and clear thinking.
US Embassy ebola message
What has the State of Emergency achieved?
At least now the general population are taking it seriously. Everyone knows the disease is real and there is a lively respect for it now.  At least now there are bye laws being enacted and measures being taken to actually enforce the restriction of movement to and from infected areas. At least now there are measures being taken to ensure infected cases are isolated and that panicking family members can no longer raid hospitals for infected relatives to take them to the magic man and thus infect unknown people in the community.
On the minus side - there is still an illogical panicking that has occurred.  No surprise really but it will be so helpful if educated people take sensible precautions and spread information not alarmist panic.
Worth while actions:
Restricting travel to a minimum
Avoiding unnecessary touch
Carefully monitoring health of everyone
Immediately isolating and reporting those with any of the possible symptoms

However, let us be clear, people are far far more likely still to be ill with malaria or TB than ebola.  We need to use our education and our thinking to ensure we are part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Sensationalist panic spreading is unhelpful.  Let us share accurate information and cooperate with government and medical practitioners to protect ourselves and our communities.

For those of you who are concerned about EducAid and ebola: we are operating in areas where there has been little or no ebola and none in the general community.  The few deaths in our districts have been of people who have travelled from other areas in the country were infection was more common.
We are working with local medical and health practitioners so that we have accurate information and know what to do were a case to occur.  We are monitoring health very carefully of all children who have stayed with us during the holiday period.  We are ensuring that there is absolute minimum travel and have instructed staff and students to avoid unnecessary touch.  We are adhering to government advice.  We are confident that with these measures we will be able to protect our school communities.

If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to 

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