World Renew began responding to the Ebola crisis in June of 2014, after receiving an urgent request from a partner organization in Liberia.
Requests for partnership from other World Renew and Christian Reformed World Missions partners in Guinea and Sierra Leone soon followed. As a result, World Renew began to implement what would become an $849,000 response to this deadly epidemic.
Together with local church and government partners in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, World Renew provided community education about the virus and how it could be prevented and treated. World Renew also provided chlorine and other prevention materials and later provided food assistance, emergency supplies, and support to affected communities especially children orphaned by the disease.
In Liberia, World Renew worked with the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL) to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and medicines to its 45 member clinics. They trained healthcare workers in clinics on infection, prevention and control procedures to ensure the safety of health personnel and to restore the confidence in community members to start attending these health facilities again.
CHAL also constructed ten triage units in each medical center so that patients could be protected from contracting illness. Once the threat of Ebola lessened, the triage units continued to be a valuable asset to these communities. They are currently being use to screen any diagnosis, including other infectious diseases such as cholera.
According to a clinic nurse, named Mary Swee, “The triage unit has given the patients reassurance that they are protected from contagion. As the nurse caring for these patients, I am also reassured and feel so much safer to have, not only this new triage system, but also the personal protective equipment that has been provided. I am very thankful to World Renew and CHAL for this project!”
Another part of the program was educating community members on proper home-based care when a relative was suspected of being infected and prior to them being transported to a treatment facility, and training general Community Health Volunteers (gCHVs) within the surrounding areas of the five clinics. A total of 50 gCHVs were trained and they in turn provided training and awareness-raising in each of the surrounding communities.
World Renew also sent two International Relief Managers (IRMs), Harry and Annie Bergshoeff, to provide support to CHAL in the areas of human resources management, warehousing of medical supplies and assistance with designing triage units.
"We learned firsthand the tremendous sacrifice that the CHAL employees had to make to stay true to their mission of raising awareness on how to prevent Ebola, especially in the most remote areas..."
In addition, World Renew worked with another partner in Liberia, named ZOA, to provide food and agricultural assistance to affected families, supplies to individuals that had survived Ebola and were returning to their communities, and hygiene materials to 7,000 households in Ebola-affected communities.
Yaker Flomo, a Town Chief of Yakpazuah township in Montserado County, Liberia, explained, “Before the Ebola crisis, this community was enjoying good life and everyone was in good spirit to work on their farms and the children were attending school. Ebola came in and brought a lot of deaths, pain and hardship on my people. Farms were abandoned. There was no food to feed our families. Schools were closed, and our livelihoods activities came to a halt due the quarantine period. Many people deserted the Township. There was absolutely no hope in sight until World Renew and ZOA came in with health education and distributed buckets, chlorine and soap. This helped us prevent the spread of Ebola, and protect ourselves and families from getting Ebola sickness. The happiest moment was when World Renew and ZOA donated free food packages to us on two occasions. This was timely because we could not plant our crops due to the crisis and there was no food for the families. Also, the food packages came at the time when school children were going back to school, so the children had food to eat to have good health and energy to study.”
In Guinea, World Renew supported the Timothy Training Leadership Institute to provide Ebola prevention education to teachers and 10,200 students in six training centres. The goals were to help teachers understand the educational process, help teachers prepare students to effectively combat the epidemic Ebola virus, encourage the expression of students and debate in the classroom, and engage parents and conduct an effective education campaign in the community.
In Sierra Leone, World Renew partnered with CRWM, Christian Extension Services (CES) and the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL).
With CES, World Renew provided community education and sensitization, as well as food assistance to families who have been supported 105 children who were orphaned due to Ebola. Orientation meetings were also held in communities to provide information on trauma healing.
CES staff were able to communicate in the local language and had local connections in the Ebola-affected communities where they were working, so the people considered them to be a trustworthy source of accurate information on Ebola.
“World Renew and our partners worked through local churches, which enabled us to reach places that World Renew staff could not go, even during the peak of the travel bans,” said World Renew’s West Africa Team Leader, Mary Crickmore.
World Renew and CCSL provided food, emergency supplies, chlorine and containers, as well as community education. Ebola survivors were also provided with new bedding and clothing. Children of Ebola survivors have been assisted with school uniforms, shoes and backpacks.
Hassan Kamara previously owned a nursery school in Kono, but it was closed once Ebola reached the community. Tragically, Hassan lost his wife, father and three brothers to Ebola. Hassan became head of the house. After receiving the food assistance in February of this year he stated, “Thank you! I needed help, I got it, I received the food you have provided which will feed my four children and my eight nieces and nephews who lost their parents to Ebola. The children’s school uniforms will benefit them because school will be starting at the end of March.”
While the spread of the Ebola virus has largely abated, the disease has not disappeared. According to the World Health Organization, improvements to case investigation, contact tracing, enhanced incentives to encourage case reporting and compliance with quarantine measures have led to a better understanding of chains of transmission. In July 2015, there were 3 confirmed cases in Liberia, 18 in Guinea and 9 in Sierra Leone.
It is a difficult journey for the people who have survived the Ebola virus. Patricia Kamara, World Renew’s partner CHAL’s Director explains, “For the survivors, along with the many sad after effects of Ebola – the loss of precious family members and friends, unemployment, loss of a school year if a student, there is one more very sad outcome. Many of the survivors have physical ailments that they did not have previously, like paralysis, loss of vision, hearing impairment, severe headaches, painful joints, personality changes, confusion and short-term memory, loss.”
“The people take some pride in having beaten Ebola, but there is ongoing grief of the families who lost loved ones,” Crickmore added. “There is also need for orphan care, which World Renew is still involved in. Ebola helped the world understand that the health facilities in West Africa are in really bad shape.”
Senior Program Manager of Disaster Response, Ken Little acknowledges this continuing need and encourages your prayers.
“It has been shocking to see the scale of the spread of Ebola,” he said, “but we have been tremendously encouraged by the resolve of our partners to combat this terrible disease. They have worked tirelessly to educate communities to prevent the spread of Ebola, and also provide treatment and support for those affected. It has also been wonderful and humbling to see the outpouring of generosity from World Renew’s supporters that has enabled us to respond significantly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Please pray for the survivors of Ebola who continue to face numerous health challenges and please pray that these countries will effectively manage the most current cases of Ebola and that there will not be an outbreak like this again."
PHOTO TOP: Partner staff such as these employees from the Christian Health Association of Liberia were the unsung heroes of World Renew's Ebola response. They risked their own personal safety to help others.