News / Africa

NGO Fights Ebola Fear and Stigma

In this photo taken on Sunday, July 27, 2014,  Medical personnel inside a clinic taking care of Ebola patients in the Kenema District on the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone.  Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has closed some border crossings and o
In this photo taken on Sunday, July 27, 2014, Medical personnel inside a clinic taking care of Ebola patients in the Kenema District on the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone. Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has closed some border crossings and o

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

An NGO said containing the West Africa Ebola epidemic will require overcoming fear and stigma surrounding the disease. ActionAid says the high death rate has caused a lack of faith in the medical system. The group is helping to contain the outbreak in Sierra Leone.

Listen to De Capua report on Ebola in Sierra Leone
Listen to De Capua report on Ebola in Sierra Leonei
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

The World Health Organization says there have been more than 470 confirmed cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone. There are several hundred more suspected cases. More than 230 people have died.

ActionAid Country Director Mohamed Silah says the major challenge facing Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia is a poor health infrastructure. He says the countries are simply not well-equipped to handle the crisis because of a lack of investment in health.

Silah said those countries need to act to change that.

“First it has to do with necessary training for the staff – equipping the staff with the basic equipment that they need to actually carry out their work. Issues as simple as an ambulance are a challenge for major hospitals. If you have a suspected case there are very limited ambulances around to collect the sick people and evacuate them.”
He said many community health centers lack access to electricity. That means no refrigeration to safely store vaccines or drugs that are susceptible to heat.

Another major problem is fear. And fear of Ebola is widespread among the population. The ActionAid country director said many people actually deny the existence of the disease and attribute the sickness and death to some other cause.

Also, the message that was sent out after the Ebola outbreak was confirmed was that it had no cure. When families did bring their sick relatives to the hospital, the patients were immediately placed in quarantine and the families lost contact with them.

"That lack of communication – that lack of clarity – brought about the mistrust. People saw the hospitals now as a death zone. What happens in the isolation enters was not very, very clear to the general public,” he said.

There have been several incidents in Sierra Leone where families removed infected people from hospitals. Those incidents, Silah said, not only indicate the lack of information families had about the disease, but the lack of security at the health facilities.

But what message can be sent when a disease is so often fatal? Silah said it has to do with educating communities. ActionAid staff and others are going door to door in Sierra Leone doing just that, explaining prevention methods, signs and symptoms and the importance of taking people to the hospital.

“Because we have a long time presence in the communities, they trust us. They trust the information that we give them.”

Local and traditional leaders play a big role in those education efforts.

Silah also said there’s a lack of testing centers. For example, there are just two in eastern Sierra Leone. One is run by the Ministry of Health and the other by Doctors Without Borders. Some people may have to travel hundreds of kilometers to reach them and then wait two or three days for the results. It was during that waiting period that families removed patients from health facilities.

One thing being done to raise hope among the population is to talk about the people who became infected and survived. ActionAid, the Ministry of Health and many volunteers are sending the message that medical care gives people a chance of overcoming the disease. And they point to the nearly 130 infected people who have, so far. And those survivors are now helping to educate the population through media campaigns.

“We are gaining the confidence of the people. And what you can even see from the government figures if that the number of people who are reporting to the health centers is actually increasing,” he said.

Silah is calling for greater international support for Sierra Leone to increase the number of Ebola rapid testing centers. He says this would go a long way toward controlling the outbreak.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid