With the news of Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey’s readmission to hospital, the forgotten crisis of a foreign disease is brought right back into public consciousness. The involvement of a British citizen in another country’s problem reminds us of its existence, and through this tangible link we can engage with it once again. We might remember the fundraising campaigns, from the likes of Doctors Without Borders or Save the Children, and the ten pounds we donated to the Ebola cause. We might remember the cumbersome yellow suits and alien masks worn by aid workers and medical professionals, the farcical visual of care for the victims of this most serious disease. Yet it is unlikely that we remember the people in West Africa who lived through the Ebola crisis and survived to tell the tale, outliving children and friends and losing their possessions to government confiscations and burning. As the disease continues to affect Pauline Cafferkey, so too does it continue to affect the men, women and children of Sierra Leone.
APT’s lottery-funded project, ‘Empowering Communities in Sierra Leone’, is as poignant as ever, with those left behind struggling to rebuild their livelihoods and generate income in the face of corruption and discrimination. Firstly, survivors are not receiving all of the money raised internationally for their cause, with a lack of financial audits and reports showing aid money being allocated to fictitious workers. Secondly, survivors in families that suffered fatalities are treated as social pariahs, facing an extra layer of discrimination on top of that already experienced by women and people with disabilities. Thirdly, health infrastructure has to be reinvented and reinforced to react to future outbreaks whilst aiming to run as normal, challenging practitioners to breaking point and losing patients who fear clinics as breeding grounds for the Ebola virus. The list of problems that remain, ‘post-Ebola’, could go on. APT is taking the following three steps to help survivors continue in the face of their unimaginable struggles:
- Rebuilding livelihoods by delivering sustainable social livelihood support services to 1,500 vulnerable families and 1,000 young people through 12 community based organisations. This will increase the incomes of 1,000 families and 800 young people by at least 70% and improve their access to basic needs and life opportunities.
- Improving the ability of women, youths and disabled people to exercise their human rights through increased awareness of entitlement and advocacy amongst themselves, their families, communities and institutions. This will lead to their more effective inclusion in decision-making, improved participation in socio-economic activities and a reduction in discrimination.
- Improving access to safe water and sanitation through increased knowledge of good sanitation practices, better facilities and safe drinking water in 12 communities, impacting approximately 12,000 people. This will contribute to the reduction of diarrhoea and water borne diseases, which can be deadly for immune systems weakened by Ebola.
As we wish Pauline Cafferkey a speedy recovery for the third time, let us remember the people in Sierra Leone who are still living with the effects of Ebola and those who are continuing to survive through many layers of adversity.