Thursday, October 16, 2014

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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We have 0 full-time employees in the UK, and over 180 in Sierra Leone. Please give generously so that we can continue to build a life for #AfterEbola

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