Monday, January 5, 2015

4Ms Fighting Ebola: Alfred J Fornah

Alfred J Fornah is a teacher at the Mafoimba School, one of our 4Ms in the Tonkolil district. Mafoimba is a product of our partnership with Make It Happen, a fruitful joint venture that has seen us open 4 schools in one of the most isolated districts in Sierra Leone. As explained in our previous post, the 4Ms schools have been deserted from the beginning of the Ebola outbreak because none of our students are residents at these schools. Instead, our students are having to fend for themselves within their own communities; far from access to education, and from the safety of EducAid, these students are some of the most at-risk within our network.

Our number one priority throughout this Ebola outbreak has been to protect our existing students. Primarily this has been focussed within our schools by restricting movement to that which is absolutely necessary for the continuation of our education, but for those schools that do not have a standing residency of home students we have had to develop more innovative ways to achieve this objective.

Under the careful guidance of Miriam, and by following the strict guidelines of the CDC and WHO, our 4Ms staff have been undertaking a number of Ebola sensitisations throughout the region and surrounding areas. These sensitisations take the education and practical expertises that we know about combatting Ebola, and teaching this to rural communities. In effect, by providing clear information and a practical education to these areas, we are empowering them to protect themselves.

Last week our 4Ms coordinator, Pires, interviewed Alfred J Fornah, a teacher at Mafoimba, so that he could tell us his story. Alfred’s own experience of Ebola has meant that his mission to spread careful information is a personall one: at the beginning of the outbreak Alfred lost his pregnant wife and 1 year old son to this deadly virus. These are exactly the kind of totally avoidable deaths that we are trying to avoid by undertaking our sensitisations.

This is what he Alfred had to say about the work the he and other EducAid staff are doing in Tonkolili.

What is your name, and where are you from?
My name is Alfred J fornah, and I am from Magbaki village, Kolifa Mabang chiefdom in the Tonkolili district. Currently, I live at Mathele Bana village at Mafoimba School.

What are the basic methods to prevent Ebola?
Avoid eating bush meat, especially bats, monkeys and chimpanzees. Avoid public gathering, body contact, and especially important is to not touch the dead and the sick. Anyone suffering from the disease should be isolated, movement should be restricted, and frequent hand-washing with chlorinated water and soap. Frequent taking of malaria drugs like Metaprim helps to prevent malaria, which is often mistaken as one of the symptoms of Ebola.

Can you show us what teaching materials you use to help you to prevent Ebola.
These are the kinds of materials that are circulated to educate people about Ebola.

This is Pires with chlorinated water tanks, ready to distribute to needy communities.

Do you think that the lessons are helping local communities protect themselves?
Yes, the lessons are really helpful to the teachers and the communities as well. I have now taught a very good number of people how to avoid Ebola and what to do if people are showing symptoms.

How has EducAid helped you to keep safe?
We have learnt much through the Ebola sensitization workshop in Port Loko with Miriam, Pires, and Easy man in September. The restriction of my movement to public places, provision of soap and water, Chlorine and drugs. The drugs have been especially helpful for illnesses such as malaria, head aches and stomach aches because they are all often mistaken for symptoms of Ebola. EducAid deems it necessary to give all of these in order to protect its people, both teachers and staff in the community.

What would you have done without EducAid, would you have been able to protect yourself from Ebola?
I would have had to just rely on the Government information and personal preventions, but thank God for EducAid’s country director and the board of trustees for their good support that they have given to us.

What do you think about the work that EducAid is doing against Ebola?
Really, EducAid is doing an excellent work in Sierra Leone in the fight against Ebola. Most especially our Country Director, Miriam Mason-Sesay, who sacrificed herself to see that she protect her students, teachers, and people in the community in the prevention of Ebola.

What are the biggest challenges the country faces regarding Ebola?
There is no education in the country which has led to many dropouts. General hardships include unemployment, closing down of businesses, and people suffering from hunger because they are not allow to move from one place to another. The rate of teenage pregnancy is increasing every day and development activities going on in the country have completely stopped. All of these things are very worrying.

Alfred J Fornah demonstrates the resolve that resides within each and every Sierra Leonean; all that we can do is to give them the tools and support to empower themselves. Imagine losing your wife or husband and new-born; rather than being lost in grief and self-pity, to take arms against the very virus that stole these loved ones from you. It is something that we would all aspire to do, but I wonder how many of us would be able to stomach it. 

Fear is all around, but the fight within Sierra Leone is stronger than Ebola. The recent Civil War that saw such atrocities come from within the country has steeled this nation against attack: Sierra Leone will come out of this fighting, we just need to make sure that the fewest number of innocent people die in the process.

We’re fighting for a life #AfterEbola, please help. Donate here

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