Paramount Chiefs Now Authorized to Enforce Community Ebola Practices

A systematic way to enforce community Ebola procedures has been missing in Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak, enabling the disease to spread around the country. Paramount Chiefs are now authorized by the Sierra Leone government to do this.

The National Council of Paramount Chiefs developed a national template for individual chiefdom byelaws on managing Ebola at the community level.

The “Byelaws on the Prevention of Ebola and other Diseases” were approved by the Honorable Minister of Local Government and Rural Development and made pursuant to the Public Health Emergency declared by the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and approved by Parliament on Friday 8th August 2014 under section 29 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act No. 6 of 1991.

Paramount Chiefs are now expected to adopt these byelaws into their chiefdom byelaws and enforce the provisions.  Beyond imposing fines, chiefdom authorities have the right to pursue legal action in the Local Courts or courts of higher jurisdiction, for flagrant violations of these byelaws.

The Sierra Leone Government had identified many community practices and procedures necessary to stop the spread of Ebola.  But they did not have the ability to uniformly enforce them in all corners of the country, especially once you leave the few provincial cities.

???????????????????????????????Paramount chiefs are a long standing country institution that ensures basic law and order, management of local land rights and maintaining traditional practices. There are 149 chiefdoms that cover every part of the country, with cascading chiefdom authorities down to the village level. But they are an institution separate from the Sierra Leone Government, and were not directly authorized to enforce Ebola practices established by the government.

P.C. Charles Caulker, chair of the National Council of Paramount Chiefs, worked with the NCPC to harmonize byelaws some chiefdoms had started initiating on Ebola. They worked with the Honorable Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to finalize a national document , have it accepted by the Government Cabinet, and then approved by Parliament on August 8.

Paramount chiefs are now expected to introduce and enforce these provisions as chiefdom byelaws.  They include nineteen provisions and authorize chiefs to impose fines of up to Five Hundred Thousand Leones (Le.500, 000) and/or a term of Six (6) months imprisonment for any breach of these provisions.

The provisions include Communication of Ebola, where no one can harbor a person suspected of having contracted Ebola and all strangers arriving in any residential area shall be immediately reported by their host, guest house or hotel to the competent chiefdom authorities.

They continue to Treatment of Ebola  where only personnel part of recognized facilities for the treatment of these diseases can be involved in treatment of any Ebola patient. Provisions for quarantine and receiving recovered Ebola patients back into their communities are given.

Provisions for Death and Burial are defined. Miscellaneous provisions temporarily prohibit public gatherings, including Luma markets and Secret Society activities, and the hunting and selling bush meat. Public places, including those of worship, are encouraged to have hand washing buckets with chlorinated water.

Any chief, including paramount chiefs, found negligent in the application and enforcement of the Bye-laws is liable to a fine of Five Hundred Thousand Leones (Le.500,000) and / or summary suspension from office.

Directly engaging paramount chiefs and authorizing them to enforce community Ebola practices will go a long way to controlling the current outbreak.  This hopefully also represents a new level of working relationship between the government and the country’s traditional leaders.

Rotifunk’s Computer Center: building their future

Rotifunk’s Computer Center: building their future

Rotifunk’s Community Computer Center structure is now completely up.  Latest pictures are below.  See more of the full construction story here and read about plans for the computing center here.

September 16: The building’s exterior is finished with window frames in place. Ready to paint.

computer ctr sept 16 4     computer ctr sept 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

computer ctr sept 16 3Work on the interior now proceeds.  We did a quick lighting and computer use plan 2 weeks ago to devise the electrical wiring plan. An electrician got to work on wiring so the interior finishing with wall plastering can proceed.  The drop ceiling is now in.

 

 

 

 

 

Compare with these pictures taken  June 24 a week after work initially started on from a burned out building shell.Computer Lab 2

Computer Lab 3

 

 

 

 

 

September 1: Rotifunk’s first Ebola cases appear in town.  Five deaths and 35 quarantined in five houses.  But the computer center construction proceeds on schedule.

August 25:  The roof is up on Rotifunk’s community computing center.  Ebola is not slowing down work on this center full of hope for the future.

10634313_720411201361353_1073541016_nThis (now) ugly baby will be beautiful as they plaster the walls and add a coat of paint.

Work has gone on in spite of August being the peak of the rain season. Remember 2011 when here in Cincinnati we got 73″ rain for the year and called it an all time record year. The average rainfall for the month of August alone  in Sierra Leone is 42″.  Throw in July and there’s 73″.

The next stage is raising funds for a solar energy system so the computing center can operate into the evening with classes and community computer access. They’ll offer small business services, too, like typing and copying for those without computers or printers.

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Nine year-old Caitlin raises money for Ebola prevention

“Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something.” Olga Murray, founder of the Nepal Youth Foundation.  Nine year-old Caitlin found something she could do to help fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.

caitlinCaitlin came to me Friday with $18 she earned by making bracelets and selling them in a neighborhood business area.  She kept going until she collected $18 – the cost of one portable hand washing station being used to prevent Ebola transfer in Sierra Leone.

She set up her box of colorful rubber bands in a prominent place in the shopping district and proceeded to braid them into stretchy bracelets for sale. She was selling them for twenty five and fifty cents. When people saw her hand made sign saying she’s selling to help prevent Ebola, some people gave her a dollar.

"All funds go to help build hand sanitizing stations in Sierra Leone."

“All funds go to help build hand sanitizing stations in Sierra Leone.”

When I asked her why she decided to do this, she said she wanted to give kids in Sierra Leone a good place to wash their hands and not get Ebola.  I was touched beyond words.

I stole the above quote from friend Karen. It says so well what we’re doing with Sherbro Foundation. We can’t save the world, but we can do something to help one Sierra Leone community get through the Ebola crisis.

Frequent hand washing is one proven way to stop spread of the Ebola virus. The money we’re sending now goes for public hand washing stations in  Bumpeh Chiefdom in rural Sierra Leone where there is no running water.

Thanks to Caitlin for joining our effort to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.  Thanks to many others who also joined in with their donations this month. These helped us place one hundred forty public hand washing stations in Bumpeh Chiefdom in the last two weeks.  They’re already being used.

Villagers are also getting an important personalized education on the importance of sanitation and hand washing in preventing disease.  The leader of our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner organization, Rosaline Kaimbay, told me, These hand washing stations are protecting against more than Ebola. It’s raining now. This is the cholera season, too.

The Ebola outbreak is unfortunately growing at the moment.  We will have to maintain these hand washing stations with chlorine bleach or disinfectant for months to come.  You can help.  Click here to donate.

Fighting Ebola with buckets and bleach

Buckets and bleach.  This is the most basic – and an effective – method to prevent Ebola.  Frequent hand washing is one necessary step in stopping the spread of Ebola.  Here’s the latest pictures on the community-led Ebola prevention work in Rotifunk and Bumpeh Chiefdom by the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET).

Chief Caulker & CCET Exec Dir, Rosaline Kaimbay show buckets ready to distribute for hand washing

Chief Caulker & CCET Exec Dir, Rosaline Kaimbay show buckets ready to distribute for public hand washing

Hand washing stations are needed in public places to make it easy for people to frequently wash. In the cities in Sierra Leone, it’s become standard practice that you must wash your hands at a portable washing station (aka bucket with spigot) before entering a business or restaurant.  Business owners set these up at the front door and position someone to monitor they’re used.

But rural places with tiny local economies have no money to do this.  Public places like town markets, mosques, churches and public health clinics have not been equipped and are at risk.

Forty public hand washing stations were set up last week  in Rotifunk, seat of Bumpeh Chiefdom with Sherbro Foundation funding. With a second SF donation, CCET is out today in Bumpeh Chiefdom distributing another one hundred buckets and bottles of disinfectant to treat the water used.

2nd batch of 100 buckets for Bumpeh Chiefdom Ebola prevention.

2nd batch of 100 buckets for Bumpeh Chiefdom Ebola prevention.

I caught Paramount Chief Caulker today by phone as he was on the road to deliver the buckets to small villages in the chiefdom.  CCET picked up money Wednesday  in a second wire transfer Sherbro Foundation sent to the capital, Freetown.  They purchased the additional hundred buckets and disinfectant, and Chief Caulker drove them down to Rotifunk on Saturday.

Some were handed out there to complete Rotifunk coverage.  The rest were being driven and personally distributed to villages today, Sunday, by Chief and CCET volunteers. He’ll pick up a boat along the way to deliver buckets to the farther flung small villages along the Bumpeh River that transects his chiefdom.

This is how Chief Caulker and CCET get work done.  They do simple projects that can quickly be implemented and have immediate benefit for poorest people in the chiefdom. They collaborate closely and are personally leading the effort. And it’s finished and having the intended effect – quickly.

10565041_719734634762343_5707628134744572684_nThey are reaching small villages down narrow dirt roads that government designated Ebola “sensitization” trainers and NGO’s never get to.  But these village people travel to town markets to sell their farm goods. They have family and friends that travel down to see them, perhaps now to feel they are escaping the Ebola plague. It’s frequent travel that’s been the vector to spread this ebola outbreak compared to past outbreaks.

Bellantine town chief Ali Kamara is getting a hand washing station as he receives many visitors at this house.

Bellantine town chief Ali Kamara is getting a hand washing station as he receives many visitors at this house.

These villages need preventive  hand washing, too.  I asked Chief where he put buckets in a small village like this one.  At the public health clinic, the mosque and the town chief’s house, he said, the places where people congregate.

Chief Caulker and CCET are educating people as they go on how Ebola is transmitted and how to prevent transfer, like frequent hand washing. Then they get the hand washing station from Chief or one of their local leaders, and it’s all reinforced for them.

We talked today about the Ebola epidemic resulting in one silver lining with the country-wide blitz training on personal hygiene and spread of disease. Yes, Chief said, it’s a whole new orientation for people.

It’s also energizing people with positive action they can take to fight Ebola. To not feel like victims. They feel their Chief and their country are supporting them when they visibly see action taken they can understand – like a bucket and bleach. When a trusted chief personally explains it and puts it in their hands, it’s more accepted and likely to be used.

I could feel the energy in Chief’s voice today. It was a far cry from our conversation two weeks ago when we first talked of the need to provide preventive action, but none was there.

In recent weeks, Chief Caulker’s been contributing to a number of district level and national strategies to fight Ebola. Today he was doing what he does best; personally inspiring and leading people to action.  He was clearly being energized, too, to continue the Ebola fight.

This Ebola fight will probably go on for six months. We have work in front of us to keep these hand washing stations equipped with disinfectant. You can help by donating to Sherbro Foundation’s Ebola prevention effort.

 

 

 

 

 

Rotifunk Leads Unique Community Ebola Prevention Effort

Rotifunk Leads Unique Community Ebola Prevention Effort

Dear Friends,

I thought I would be writing now to ask your support for Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone’s girls scholarship fund. With the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, school is indefinitely suspended. Instead, I’m asking for your help on getting Ebola prevention supplies to the rural Sierra Leone area we work with.

CCET Exec. Director Rosaline Kaimbay demonstrates the hand washing station.

CCET Executive Dir. Rosaline Kaimbay demonstrates portable hand washing station filled with disinfectant solution.

In the last two weeks, SFSL has had to shift our focus from education to helping Rotifunk and surrounding villages fight the Ebola epidemic.  A second and bigger wave of Ebola is now moving through Sierra Leone.  Neither the Sierra Leone government nor any NGO’s have reached rural areas beyond the outbreak epicenter with Ebola prevention supplies.  Yet, it’s in these kinds of rural places the Ebola outbreak started.

The majority of Ebola cases continue to be in two areas in eastern Sierra Leone. A national state of emergency was declared last week, and these two areas have been blockaded. Everyone is effectively quarantined in place for 21 days, the Ebola incubation period. Only food, water and essential supplies are allowed in.

This is a necessary public health step to control the Ebola outbreak. But the disease had already started spreading around the country.  People who became sick in the hot spot areas feared they would get Ebola if they went to a hospital. Before the blockades went up, sick people ran to the care of relatives in other districts. Some of these sick people had Ebola and transferred it to other parts of the country, including Moyamba district where Rotifunk is.  This district now has four confirmed cases and fifty being tested.  This is how epidemics spread.  A frontline Scots aid worker describes the many direct and indirect effects the epidemic is having on an already fragile country.

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CCET, our local partner, prepares to deliver hand sanitizing stations.

There’s a misconception that the Ebola outbreak is being managed for the whole country by large nonprofit organizations like Doctors WIthout Borders (MSF). MSF is heroically fighting the battle to save people’s lives already ill with Ebola in the two epicenters, and tracing their contacts for quarantine there. But they are not involved in prevention activities to stop the spread of Ebola in the rest of country. The Sierra Leone Government’s actions have been limited to reactive steps and mainly within their fragile health care system; not preventive steps across the country.

Sherbro Foundation is equipping Rotifunk and surrounding villages with portable hand sanitizing stations.  This deadly disease can surprisingly be killed with soap and water and hand sanitizers.  People are being trained to frequently wash their hands, especially when in public places like markets, churches, mosques and health clinics.

Hand washing station delivered to the health clinic waiting area.

Hand washing station delivered to health clinic waiting area.

Rotifunk, like most of the country, has no running water.  There is nowhere to wash hands.  Preventive steps like hand sanitizing stations in public places are not set up in rural towns and villages outside the two Ebola hot spots.

SFSL sent money last week to set up over forty hand sanitizing stations like this one and a supply of disinfectant. Our Rotifunk local partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET)informed us today they need to reach more villages and have more disinfectant to go around. Prices on buying these portable sanitizing stations have gone up 50% in the last week, as goods are in short supply.

CCET Executive Director, Rosaline Kaimbay informed me today they are being seen as unique in Sierra Leone with this kind of grass roots community-led effort on Ebola prevention.  While towns across Sierra Leone are still waiting for Government and NGO assistance, they are taking charge on the fight against Ebola.

It’s understandable that limited resources are first going to the epicenters of the emergency.  But unless towns in the rest of Sierra Leone like Rotifunk are equipped for preventive actions to fight Ebola, the epidemic can continue to spread across the country – and beyond.  More lives will be lost.

Time is of the essence. Can you help stop this tragic epidemic for the cost of a dinner out or one concert ticket? To donate online, just click here: Donate   We accept all major world currencies. To send checks, contact us at sherbrofoundation@gmail.com.

You can help even more by passing this on to a friend.

Thank you!

Arlene Golembiewski
Founder & Executive Director

Good News from Sierra Leone – Computer Center Construction Progress

The entire country of Sierra Leone may be living in the grip of fear of Ebola.  But life does go on beyond the two epicenters of the epidemic. We need good news to share right now.  Here’s some. Construction on the Rotifunk community Computer Center is on track for its November debut.

10592057_711825275553279_1085342184_nThese pictures from August 3 show the roof tresses going up.  The sheets of metal roofing were purchased. If they arrived, the roof may be going on as we speak.

This project will provide a permanent building for computer literacy classes and small business services. We already have fifty five Windows 7 laptop computers in Rotifunk waiting for their new home and central access for the whole town.

The building is going up with private donations and  community contributions of the land, building shell, local materials and local unskilled labor.

You can read more about the project here.  I like to call it from tragedy to triumph.  When the computer center construction started, I was referring to rebuilding from the shell of a building burned by rebels during the war.

Today, we can also say despite the Ebola tragedy, the people of Rotifunk and Sierra Leone will triumph. They are still hard at work building a better future.

For now, enjoy these construction pictures.  I am.

Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

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Old exterior walls of the building shell were reinforced with an inner wall of new bricks.  Once the walls are plastered and painted inside and out, you won’t know it’s a building rebuilt from a fire.

 

 

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Deep roof overhangs are essential in a place with tropical rains over 120 inches a year.

 

 

 

10592057_711825275553279_1085342184_nYou can still the charred tops of the original inside pillars – evidence of the fire set by rebels during the war, trying to destroy the town.

Rotifunk today is about 60% rebuilt.  With recent construction like a large community hall, a rebuilt hospital, four secondary schools, a new rural community bank, and now a modern computer center, Rotifunk is putting itself back on the map.  It’s regaining its former position as a rural hub for education, health care and trade in southern Sierra Leone.

 

Sherbro Foundation Funds Ebola Prevention

Sherbro Foundation Funds Ebola Prevention

Sierra Leone and the Ebola crisis are all over the news this week. Everything we read is about the two main outbreak areas in Kailahun and Kenema in the east of the country.  But what’s going on in the rest of the country, you may wonder .

Weeks with the strain of bad news, much uncertainty and no direct support is taking its toll on a small town like Rotifunk. Imagine a country with some of the friendliest people on earth that has stopped shaking hands with friends and colleagues, part of the normal daily ritual of greetings. Everyone is eying each other for signs of illness.

President Koroma declared a national emergency and Monday, August 4 was a national day of prayer and reflection. Everyone was asked to stay home. And they did.  It was eerie to see pictures of the normally jammed streets of Freetown empty without even a pedestrian in sight.

Ebola trainingThis was a chance to complete Ebola sensitization training for all citizens.  We’d call it awareness training. Health care workers could make door to door checks.

Paramount Chief Caulker in Rotifunk, Bumpeh Chiefdom last week gathered all his section chiefs and other chiefdom leaders to personally explain symptoms of Ebola and how to prevent transmission of the virus.

The Ebola training poster is rather graphic.  It needs to be for the many people who cannot read.

Rotifunk is in Moyamba District and they are a long way from the Ebola hot spots.  The District has only had one confirmed Ebola case, fortunately not in Rotifunk.

Rotifunk is a center of local trade with its lively Saturday market.

But with traders coming from many parts of the country for big weekly Luma markets, it wouldn’t be hard for a person just coming down with Ebola to show up in town. These Luma markets have now been banned. Local people are free to buy and sell every day as usual, but “strangers” cannot set up in town to trade.

P. C. Caulker was clearly tired and on edge when I called to check on things. I could hear the strain in his voice of now weeks of the crisis and trying to oversee protection of the people in his chiefdom. It wasn’t the first time he told me no Ebola prevention supplies had made their way to his chiefdom and the other smaller towns across the country.  He felt vulnerable – for the town and for himself.  I’m the chief and I have to receive everyone who comes to my door, he said.  I’m personally at risk.

hand washing stationWe’ve trained people to frequently wash their hands, he said. Yet we have nowhere in public places like the market, mosques, churches and schools to do this.  In a town like Rotifunk with no running water and no public rest rooms, people can’t follow the procedures we just trained them on.

I asked what they need to improvise for hand washing. He described covered buckets fitted with spigots and diluted household bleach solution, now the country protocol. Done. The Sherbro Foundation Board quickly agreed to fund this, and I wired the money on Monday. By end of the week, they should have fifty of these hand sanitizing stations staged around town and a supply of bleach.

Chief’s second problem was harder to address.  Hospitals and clinics may have no personal protective equipment beyond thin disposable gloves and health care workers are afraid to handle people who become sick. Patients might be unattended for several days while waiting for Ebola test results to come back from Kenema. It’s understandable they are afraid. When they do their jobs, nurses and community health officers are at significant risk.

Buckets they can buy in Freetown, but not PPE.  To order and ship from here would be expensive and take a long time, even if we chose the right things.  Sherbro Foundation Director and physician Cheryl Farmer called the Infectious Disease unit at the Ann Arbor hospital where she lives. US hospitals are receiving bulletins on how to handle suspect cases of things like Ebola, including PPE. But the shipping dilemma remained. The whole process can take 6-8 weeks and be expensive.

I raised the concern on the Friends of Sierra Leone Yahoo group. This diverse group of former Peace Corps Volunteers and Sierra Leoneans now in the US has an active dialog group.  Within hours, I got a response from Raphael, working with the Well Body Alliance. This US NGO has sent a large shipment of PPE that should arrive soon and is intended for health care workers upcountry.  The Rotifunk hospital is now in the queue to hopefully receive equipment soon. Thank you, Raphael and Well Body Alliance!

So many times in recent months when I’ve felt the frustration of how I will get something done for Sierra Leone, my prayers are answered.  I’ve learned to be clear and just ask – by email, by phone, by website, by personal contacts.  By blog post.

This is how things are getting done in and for Sierra Leone these days. Often piecemeal and ad hoc.  But thankfully, we’re getting the basics done and making progress.

When I called Chief Caulker to tell him that PPE should be on its way, they had just read CNN news about Liberian Doctor Brantly and his remarkable turnaround from Ebola’s deathbed.  This is the kind of good news people need to hear. Not that it will affect the many people now sick in Sierra Leone. But good news is good news.  That night ended on an upbeat note. For once.

If you would like to help Sherbro Foundation defray the cost of the hand sanitizing stations for Rotifunk (an unplanned expense), your support is most welcome.  You can donate here.

Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director