Annual report 2019-20Read now
By Michael Solis, Programme Manager; Mustapha Abu, Sustainable Livelihoods and Resource Rights Officer, Trócaire Sierra Leona
The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak began in Sierra Leone in May 2014. Since that time, there have been over 8,600 cases of Ebola and 3,500 deaths. The crisis has had a devastating affect on the families, communities, and economy of Sierra Leone, all of which must be rebuilt in the aftermath of Ebola.
Thousands of children have been left with either one or no parents. This coupled with the stigma attached to people who became affected by Ebola has rendered survivors, particularly orphans, more exposed to relational difficulties, grief and stress. Many orphans have had to move away from their communities of origin to live with relatives in other parts of the country, which has uprooted them from the places they once called home.
Having maintained its presence in Sierra Leone even during the darkest days of the virus, Trócaire committed itself to working in three of the districts that were most impacted by Ebola: Bombali, Port Loko and Kambia. In addition to responding to the immediate needs of Ebola-affected communities and quarantined households, Trócaire targeted the caretakers of orphans, providing them with livelihoods resources they needed to address the pressing food needs in their households.
Recently we visited the families of caregivers and orphans who are receiving support from our local partner, the Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organization (KADDRO). One of the villages we visited was Gberika, where over 20 people lost their lives to Ebola. Walking through the village, which was busy with neighbours chatting with one another and children playing on the dirt roads, it was difficult to imagine what exactly these people had experienced when Ebola had gotten out of control and all of their lives were threatened and forever changed.
Gberika is now home to a large population of orphans. Fortunately, guardians within the community took a heroic stand by taking in the children who had lost their parents.
According to Zainab, one of the women who has benefitted from Trócaire’s livelihoods support, the help has made a significant difference in her life: “It hasn’t been easy dealing with so much loss. Ebola took my husband and my sister, and now I’m taking care of her children. There are more people to take care of, more mouths to feed. I am grateful for the support because I have been able to start anew. Before we were only eating rice but now we have more. The kids don’t have to go hungry.”
Zainab lost her husband and sister to Ebola one year ago and is taking care of her sister’s three orphaned children, in addition to her own children.
Kadiatu, an 18 year-old orphan, shared how she and her three siblings lost both of their parents to Ebola and how she has had to give “courage” to her sister and two brothers. “We miss our parents. Now our aunt is taking care of us. She works very hard. We are planting and eating new kinds of food. We help my aunt out with the planting and the picking. It makes me feel peaceful.”
Kadiatu (18), Asatu (15), Nasiru (12), and Hassan (10) lost their mother and father to Ebola. They are now under the care of their aunt, and their family is producing okra, millet and maize.
Bryam Kamara, another recipient of Trócaire’s support, spoke about how Ebola claimed over 20 lives in Gberika, including those of his brother and sister-in-law. He has taken on responsibility of raising their three children, in addition to his own kids. His family has received seeds and tools to plant peppers, maize, okra and cassava. “I work hard, and now I am taking care of my brother’s children. I love them and want to see them grow up and have happy lives. Ebola took so much away from them, and I feel like it is my job to help give something back to them.”
Bryam Kamara lost his brother and sister-in-law and is now taking care of his three orphaned nieces and nephews, in addition to his own three children.
Slowly but surely, Ebola is getting under control in Sierra Leone. For the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in Sierra Leone, a full week passed with no confirmed cases reported in the country. Overall case incidence has held at three confirmed cases per week for three consecutive weeks. While this is good news, there is still a risk of further transmission, as key individuals have been lost to follow-up in the capitals of Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Trócaire will remain committed to the recovery, responding to the needs of the families that continue to grapple with the new and trying reality that Ebola has left them. By supporting the livelihoods of poor families, Trócaire hopes to restore the confidence and dignity of those who lost so much to the virus.