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).
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.
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.
They 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.
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.