By Ahmed Sahid Nasralla (De Monk)
Marking International Women’s Day the women of Kailahun released a position paper calling for urgent intervention in the livelihood and health and economic well-being of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) survivors and affected families in the district.
At a one day District Conference held at the Kailahun District Youth Centre, on Monday 9th March 2015, the women said they have discussed, dialogued and resolved that the economic situation of EVD survivors needs urgent attention.
The EVD struck first in the Eastern District in May 2014 killing hundreds of people. As the district now goes beyond 90 days without any Ebola case, officials said the dreaded virus left in its trail grim statistics of 186 certified survivors, over 620 orphans and over 500 people affected in the district, majority of them women and children.
In addition, properties of survivors have been lost, businesses stopped, agricultural activities halted, productivity among survivors crumbled, confidence of affected communities and survivors destroyed.
Government and development actors on the ground are doing their best but are unable to substantially and sustainably reach and positively impact the lives of survivors in all of the district’s 14 chiefdoms.
As they celebrate and recognize the contribution of women in the fight against the EVD, the women urged government and its helpers to continue to provide food and non-food items to survivors of EVD across the district, agricultural inputs to enable them re-engage in farming activities, and micro-finance/grants to enable them re-start businesses.
In the area of health, the Kailahun woman urged government to make the district its number one priority.
As a result of the EVD, some PHUs (peripheral health units) have been deserted while others lack logistics and the requisite staff to be fully operational.
In addition, many survivors of the EVD have developed health complications such as poor eyesight, body pain, and frequent loss of weight; an additional burden to the district’s already crumbled health sector.
The women called on Government to make it happen for the sector by providing adequate medical facilities, equipments and medicine to PHUs and hospitals across the district; to renovate and construct new PHUs in the District and to repair refrigerators, solar panels, incinerators, and toilet facilities for all the PHUs in the District.
They also appealled for facility management committees from all the PHUs across the district to be effective in monitoring of services that promote child and maternal health, and call for increased incentives for health workers across the district.
As the district’s road network is horribly bad, especially during the rainy season, the women asked government to supply motorbikes for all PHUs in the District to support coordination and outreach activities, for better reach and impact.
The women further emphasized the need for regularly education of the general public on health issues through their local radios- Radio Moa and SLBC.
Regarding problems affecting the EVD survivors the women called on the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs and development partners in the district to sustain sensitizations across the chiefdoms to address stigma, discrimination and shame, by allocating resources to CSOs to enable them continue such.
In addition, they called on the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to establish a counseling institute or structure in the district to address issues of stigma, discrimination and shame, and for health actors to increase psychological First Aid services to affected families of the EVD.
Equally important, according to the women, is for CSOs to continue to raise awareness on the 90 days abstinence by EVD survivors.
In the area of education, the officials reported about 319 cases of teenage pregnancy in just seven (7) of the 14 chiefdoms as a result of the breakdown in education sessions due to the Ebola outbreak. Most of these cases, according to the officials, are girls in Junior Secondary School II and III.
In this vein, the women reminded government not to relent on its commitment to provide scholarships for orphans or children from affected communities, especially girls.
As the authorities work to re-open schools across the country at the end of March 2015, the women called on the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and all development partners on education to establish isolation rooms in schools to isolate children with high temperatures as part of the prevention measures; to renovate all schools that were used as holding centers during the peak of the EVD outbreak, and to increase monitoring of children from EVD affected families to address issues of labeling, discrimination, and stigma.
Furthermore, the women suggested to School management teams to ensure all children separated as a result of the EVD have access to Family Tracing and re-unification services.
Working under the Gender Working Group in Kailahun and survivors of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), the women of Kailahun organized the one day conference with funding from Christian Aid and in collaboration with local partners including SEND Foundation Sierra Leone, the International Rescue Committee, SNAP, Pikin to Pikin, Sierra Leone Red Cross Society, MORRD, CNaFWO, CAGs and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs.
Reading the position paper on behalf of the women of Kailahun District in front of a hall packed-full with ordinary women from all the chiefdoms, Theresa Satta Gaber emphaised that education, is the weapon for the progress of men and women in the district, and therefore requires a significant amount of resources for its resumption.
She assured that the women of Kailahun are fully committed to promoting the welfare of men and women in the district, and complementing the efforts of government and its partners to contain, disrupt and dismantle the EVD in the entire country and pursue programs for the welfare and well being of all survivors and EVD affected families.