VSO launches battle on misinformation about Ebola in Sierra Leone

VSO launches battle on misinformation about Ebola in Sierra Leone

VSO is supporting a vital new project in partnership with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation to address the growing misinformation about Ebola, which the latest official figures show is still spreading quickly and preventing people from accessing basic medical services.

The focus of this project is on dispelling myths about Ebola transmission via a series of awareness raising meetings and radio discussions that explain clearly how the disease is passed between people and how to prevent it. The project will be undertaken in the emerging epicentres of the outbreak namely Portloko, Bombali, Moyamba and the Western Area of Freetown.

“This is exactly the right type of intervention we need at this precise time,’ said Shirley Sia Simbo, Programme Manager for Health, who is leading the work for VSO in Sierra Leone.

“We can see so many of the advances in maternal and child health being undone before our eyes because people are scared to go to clinics. We need health workers to be much better prepared in order to stop the spread of Ebola, but we also need people to understand what is a real risk and what is not.”

Building on VSO’s long track record of supporting maternal and child health in Sierra Leone, a central tenet of this project is to advise expectant and new mothers how to stay safe and receive basic health care so they do not give birth unattended if there are complications.

VSO has agreed to support the distribution of education materials as well as infection prevention and control supplies. Training community health workers to enforce standard clinic protocols that minimise infections and improve clinic management will also continue.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that health workers are desperately needed to deliver much needed support in the Ebola treatment centres so VSO is encouraging its own skilled returned volunteers to apply for health worker roles in Sierra Leone with Save the Children and the International Federation of the Red Cross. 

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VSO is also appealing for funds for our work in the region. Every gift will make a big difference. You can make a donation online now or by calling us on +44 (0)20 8780 7500.

Every penny raised will go to preventing the further spread of this disease as well as supporting the families and the communities affected.

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For more information or to request an interview, contact VSO Press Office via Ruby Wright on ruby.wright@vso.org.uk and Tel: +44(0)7969983222 

Editor's notes

VSO is the world’s leading independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries. VSO's high-impact approach involves bringing people together to share skills, build capabilities, promote international understanding and action, and change lives to make the world a fairer place for all.

Activities supported since August 2014:

  1. VSO has already given financial and technical support to the health education department of Ministry of Health and Sanitation, government of Sierra Leone. 11 training sessions for 220 people, which have helped to revitalise District Social Mobilization Committees. The committees are working to accelerate the efforts of awareness generation on Ebola amongst the general population, with an emphasis on pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five. The training sessions were conducted in Kambia, Port Loko, Bombali, Koinadugu, Kailahun, Kenema, Bo, Moyamba, Tonkolili and Western Area Urban and Western Area Rural Districts between August to October 2014. About 220 participants from local council, NGOs/CBOs, line Ministries, civil society and community groups participated.

  2. VSO handouts Provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like hand gloves, large bottles of hand sanitizers and face masks to health facilities in Tonkolili, Bonthe, Kenema and Kailahun.

  3. VSO provided transport support to the Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) department, enabling health facilities to improve their Ebola response and promote access to vital maternal, child health and newborn services in the context of Ebola.

  4. VSO has provided a Technical Assistant to the human resource department of Ministry of Health and Sanitation, government of Sierra Leone. The assistant helps ensure that health workers receive timely wages and therefore remain committed to work in the facilities.