Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Ebola: Door-to-door campaign reaches over half a million people in Sierra Leone’s deprived communities

Source: UN Development Programme

Freetown, Sierra Leone - Following a three-day national “stay at home” initiative to contain the spread of Ebola, Sierra Leone is pursuing an intensive door-to-door campaign in the capital Freetown to educate people on how the virus spreads and what to do to prevent it.

Initiated last week, and led by the Government’s Office of National Security, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the campaign is focusing on the most densely populated and deprived communities in Freetown.

A total of 200 volunteers, who live in the targeted communities, have been dispatched across the city. Each community volunteer is visiting 30 to 40 households per day, reaching over half a million of the most vulnerable people in Freetown by the weekend.

The communities reached include Moa Wharf, Falcon Bridge, Grey Bush, Congo Town, Mabayla and Kroo Bay communities, where more than half of the city’s two million people live. These communities are particularly at risk because they live in overcrowded households where poor hygiene awareness and practices prevail.

The Director of Disaster Management Department in the Office of National Security, Mary Mye-Kamara said: “The sensitization is led by people from the communities themselves, people they trust and look up to”. This initiative “gives us a unique chance to visit households, one by one, and make a real impact on the minds of people. Public outreach is vital to ending this crisis.”

Several of these communities have been affected by Ebola. UNDP Programme Manager Saskia Marijnissen said that densely populated areas, including some of Freetown slum areas, are potential hotspots for the outbreak.

“The most vulnerable and hard-to-reach areas need to be covered. By doing so, we help to contain the spread of the virus and gather information for assisting them to withstand the crisis and develop prospective recovery activities.”

Kadiatu Kamara, one of the local volunteers from Kroo Bay, said: “we are also reaching to the disabled, the blind, polio victims among others who require specific information and support to help them with prevention to stop the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease.”

UNDP has now re-focused its development interventions to support the Government and wider UN and international efforts against Ebola.

UNDP is focusing on excluded and hard-to-reach communities with prevention messages, supporting media to promote hopeful messages on social cohesion, undertaking economic and social impacts assessments, and promoting conflict prevention and security sector reform to help secure borders and contain the disease.