Water purification tablets, protective clothing and education are needed to prevent the Ebola epidemic from spreading further in Sierra Leone. Cordaid supports local health organizations in their efforts to avoid the spread of the virus.
Blanket of fear
Cordaid has 29 projects in Sierra Leone, where the Ebola epidemic has gained strength in the last month. “The disease has laid a blanket of fear over the country,” says Marjan Kruijzen, healthcare expert for Cordaid. “People say it is worse than the civil war of twelve years ago. Then, we knew where the danger was coming from. Now, the risk is everywhere.”
Kruijzen lives in Sierra Leone but is in the Netherlands for safety reasons. Cordaid has put travel to the affected area on hold.
Sierra Leone has declared a state of emergency. International organizations are working hard to take care of patients. At the same time the government´s National Action Plan emphasizes education and measures to prevent further spread of the disease.
Kruijzen: “Parts of Sierra Leone are very modern, but there are also large areas without paved roads, remote villages where people have to walk for hours to see a healthcare professional. They do not know how the disease develops, what a virus is and how to prevent infection. Local health organizations are now working to educate them. Cordaid will support them financially. There is also a great shortage of protective clothing and of chlorine to purify water. Cordaid will also work to provide these. “
Cordaid works as much as possible through local organizations. That’s an added benefit: Local people know the language and traditions best. Kruijzen: “There is quite some distrust of foreigners who come fight the disease. They bring sick people to isolation centers. This is necessary, because patients in the active phase of the disease are very contagious. But these villagers see foreigners in protective suits with covered faces walk into their village and take away their loved ones. And these loved ones usually do not come back. Understandably, people are scared. Good information is therefore absolutely necessary to prevent panic and to ensure that medical organizations can do their work.´
Since the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone erupted in March 2014, according to the World Health Organization in 1360 people became ill. 767 people died. People can carry the virus dormant for several weeks with them. If the virus becomes active patients may become seriously ill within hours. Symptoms include high fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea. From that moment they can infect others through their blood, vomit, diarrhea, saliva and even sweat.