There are now over 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sierra Leone and the virus is spreading fast. Between April 20th and April 30th cases of COVID-19 doubled in the country.
As the virus spreads, people in Sierra Leone are naturally worried. The difference between Sierra Leone and other countries across the globe right now, is that less than 5 years ago, Sierra Leone had just come out of the largest Ebola virus epidemic. This outbreak which affected West Africa in 2014 and 2015 featured similar preventative measures – such as lockdowns and quarantines.
Over 10,000 died from that disease outbreak. As well as the devastating loss of life, there has been a lasting impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods in the region. People are still traumatised, and are now worried about the impact of COVID-19.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 181 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index. As a result of decades of conflict, dealing with outbreaks, natural disasters like mudslides, and chronic poverty, the country has a very weak health system.
Sierra Leone has just 18 ventilators for a population of 7.5 million people. In contrast, Ireland has over 1,200 and is currently scaling up to over 2,000. Sierra Leone doesn’t have a single ICU bed in the whole country.
Trócaire is responding through our local partner organisations on the ground. Through our SCORE project, we have supported local organisations to be better prepared to respond to humanitarian crises in their communities.
As such, two local organisations in Sierra Leone – KADDRO and AAD-SL – were well equipped to respond to the current COVID-19 crisis. Both organisations had developed Emergency Response plans which meant they knew what to do when COVID-19 hit.
Trocaire’s project on Emergency Preparedness and Response is very important for countries like Sierra Leone where disaster risks are quite prevalent. Being prepared helps them to respond more quickly and efficiently to saves lives and protect the most vulnerable.
Humane quarantine conditions
In the North-West of Sierra Leone, next to the border with Guinea, we are supporting the local government to establish a quarantine facility. Here in Kambia district, KADDRO (Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organisation) is a local organisation, well connected and trusted by the local community.
KADDRO have helped the quarantine facility by:
- Supplying water access for basic hygiene (washing, bathing, toilets). There is no running water in the facility.
- Providing fuel to power the facility during the daytime. Beforehand the facility only had power in the evening.
- Providing supplies to people in quarantine, such as sanitary pads for women, mosquito repellent, disinfectant, radios and batteries, fresh fruits, and credit for mobile phones.
- Setting up a phone line so that people in quarantine can make comments or complaints and receive feedback. This enhances accountability and trust with the community.
- Constructing a temporary screening booth at the Guinea border for the purpose of screening travellers arriving from Guinea.