Innovations aid Ebola health care workers

Good things can eventually come out of crisis. Like these two innovations for Ebola health care workers.

The first is a much improved design for the “space suits” health care workers must wear when caring for Ebola patients. Lives of workers have been lost because of contamination, especially when removing their protective equipment. Vital patient care is probably missed because workers can’t tolerate the heat generated in wearing these suits and have to leave hospital wards within an hour.

from National Public Radio

from National Public Radio

US Agency for International Development staged a competition for improved personal protective equipment design.  Researchers and students at Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design (CBID) had the winning design.

Simple but critical changes should make their design easy to produce at cost comparable to today’s PPE.  The suit opening is in the back, away from where most workers would encounter infectious fluids during patient care. A break-away zipper design makes it easy to remove without touching yourself. A battery operated pump blows cool air into the suit.

Any worker around the world needing full protective equipment  will benefit from the improved design. For the whole story, go to National Public Radio:

Another innovation is paying Sierra Leone health care workers using mobile money.

Health Care workers are putting their lives on the line every day. They’re putting their families at risk of exposure as well, should they become ill, and of financial ruin if they, the family breadwinner, are lost.  To compensate them, they’re being paid extra hazardous duty pay.

Timely distribution of payroll is difficult around a country like Sierra Leone without electronic payment systems. Or even efficient and safe ways to distribute paper vouchers in all corners of the country.

with mPesa, a worker sends money to their rural family by mobile.

With mPesa, a Kenyan worker sends money to their rural family by mobile.

Here’s how you can ensure Sierra Leone health workers get paid on time: mobile money. This works like direct deposit, except it doesn’t go to a bank account – which most people don’t have. It goes instead to your mobile phone account – which most workers do have, even in rural areas.

You can then use your mobile kind of like on-line banking, where you send money by keying in commands on your phone. You can send money to remotely pay bills to a vendor’s mobile phone account – all without using a bank or the hassle of getting and transferring cash. It’s done similarly to purchasing minutes for your mobile phone.

Mobile money systems like mPesa have become popular in bigger African countries like Kenya and Nigera. They’ve recently found its way to Sierra Leone, but with limited use. Perhaps this application for health care workers will demonstrate its value to more people and accelerate its use.

The UN is responsible for paying the extra hazardous duty pay to Sierra Leone’s health care workers. Mobile money is a good way to ensure secure and fast transfer of payment to hundreds of workers around the country.

“In two months, we’ll ensure Ebola becomes a thing of the past”

“In two months, we’ll ensure Ebola becomes a thing of the past”

Here’s one of the most under-reported stories in Sierra Leone’s Ebola saga – and potentially one of the most impactful.

“The chairman of the Council of Paramount Chiefs, PC Charles Caulker has said that within the next two months [paramount chiefs] will ensure that Ebola will become a thing of the past.

“He made this statement at a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Local Government …. at the Bo District Council Hall on December 3.” (ExpoTimes – Dec 6)

Chief Caulker (blue sports suit) inspecting chiefdom checkpoint.

Chief Caulker (blue sports suit) inspecting chiefdom checkpoint.

How can Chief Caulker make such a bold statement?  He can because he has done just this in his own Bumpeh Chiefdom. He’s sustained no new Ebola cases now for nearly 60 days, despite Ebola present all around in neighboring chiefdoms. 

Why have more paramount chiefs not had a greater impact to date in eliminating Ebola? A clear game plan was needed describing the few high impact activities to control Ebola. The chiefs have pooled their collective experience in facing Ebola and defined this plan through the National Council of Paramount Chiefs (NCPC). They call it “Breaking the Chain of Ebola Transmission.” The plan leverages the chiefs’ unique responsibilities and local authority at the village and neighborhood level to stop the virus from being transmitted person to person.

The other gap has been lack of funding to implement the necessary activities in all chiefdoms.  On December 3, the government finally addressed this with $1.2 million in funding for the 149 chiefdoms across the country provided by the World Health Organization.

The Spectator newspaper reported: “The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), Major (Rtd.) Alfred Paola Conteh, on Wednesday 3rd December, 2014, disclosed that US$1.2 million has been sourced by his office for the 149 Paramount Chiefs in the country. … the CEO maintained that Paramount Chiefs are very instrumental in the fight against Ebola.

The money, according to Major (Rtd.) Alfred Paolo Conteh, is meant to get the Paramount Chiefs up and running in their continued fight against the Ebola disease …”

The National Council of Paramount Chiefs (NCPC) Chief Caulker leads developed a concept paper that outlined steps he and other paramount chiefs have used to keep Ebola out of their chiefdoms. The paper serves as a template for each chiefdom to enact byelaws on this chiefdoms use as their local “law.”

Bumpeh Chiefdom launches Ebola program.

Bumpeh Chiefdom launches their Breaking-the-Chain-of Transmission program.

The NCPC used the paper to co-author a “Breaking the Chain of Ebola Transmission” document with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD). Changing long held beliefs and customs on burials and caring for the sick has stymied ending the Ebola epidemic.  MLGRD Minister Diana Konomanyi-Kabba said, “solutions to end Ebola need to be fashioned out of and implemented within the framework of local leadership.” (Awareness Times)

In a second meeting last week in Kenema launching this initiative, the Kenema mayor declared Ebola eliminated from Kenema District. Two months ago Kenema city was plastered in the news as one of two early epicenters out of control, with hospitals overflowing and bodies in the street.  Mayor Keifala said, “they had encouraged local authorities to form taskforces in their respective chiefdoms to coordinate activities for the eradication of Ebola.” Politico – December 6

Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Hadiru Kalokoh, who came to Kenema to launch the paramount chiefs’ project there said, “his government recognised the role of Paramount Chiefs in ensuring development in their localities. He said the president was convinced that the chiefs were the answer to the fight against Ebola.

What will paramount chiefs actually do to eradicate Ebola from their chiefdoms? They are leading a four-prong approach:

  1. Daily door-to-door home visitations by village headmen to check for sick people and isolate them from the rest of the village. Immediate calls to district health teams will initiate Ebola testing to confirm and move cases for treatment.
  2. Safe burial procedures with immediate reporting of all deaths to chiefdom authorities. Paramount Chiefs have the authority to take custody of dead bodies in their chiefdom and ensure Ebola testing and safe burial teams are arranged.
  3. Checkpoints at chiefdom borders manned 24/7 to monitor all movement in and out, and turn away people who are not residents or who appear sick. Checkpoints are strategically placed for vehicle, river and foot traffic.
  4. Continuing sensitization of residents to reinforce Ebola symptoms and actions to protect themselves.
Bumpeh Chiefdom volunteers educate in small villages.

Bumpeh Chiefdom volunteers educate in small villages.

$1.2 million for this program may sound like a lot of money.  But divided among 149 chiefdoms, it averages only $8000 per chiefdom.  This is far less to achieve far more than funding for large NGO programs to “sensitize” the population.  Short one-time visits to towns and villages by NGO staff unfamiliar with the people will not change deep seated behaviors. Many inaccessible villages will be missed.

The paramount chiefs’ plan will not alone be the silver bullet to end Ebola. It has to work in concert with government services to isolate, transport and treat Ebola cases. More hospital beds are still needed. But it’s a major component that’s been missing to date. With Ebola so widespread across the country, a systematic way to identify any and all sick people and dead bodies, and immediately isolate them from the rest of the community has been needed. It’s also the most effective way to influence safe behaviors  countrywide using known and trusted community leaders and repeated contact.

This is why the chiefs call their plan “breaking the chain of transmission.” It goes to the source of the problem at the community level and stops further transmission.  Ebola started locally in a village. It will only end with comprehensive local action.

With Ebola now raging in urban centers in the west and north, the whole country remain at-risk. I asked Chief Caulker what can be done to control these areas. Handle them in the same way as a chiefdom, he said.

Divide a city like Freetown into sections and assign responsible section leaders to coordinate activities like chiefdom section chiefs. Further divide sections into neighborhoods for village equivalents. Use neighborhood leaders to do the daily home visitations and respond to suspected Ebola cases and deaths.

Sounds simple.  But it’s simple, strategic plans that usually works.  Chief Caulker, other Paramount Chiefs and Kenema District have shown what does works. With traditional leaders now fully engaged and funded, a major proven strategy is moving into place. Hopefully, the country can soon call Ebola a thing of past.

Sherbro Foundation is proud to have provided early funding for Chief Caulker’s Bumpeh Chiefdom Ebola program. It saved lives and allowed them to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness.

Arlene Golembiewski
Executive Director, Sherbro Foundation





Why I Give to Sherbro Foundation

GT_SunglassesMy #Unselfie for Giving Tuesday
Why do I give to Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone?

I want the girls and women of Sierra Leone to have the same opportunities for education I had.  With education, they’ll lead their community and country to prosperity.

I had help along the way. They deserve no less than I had. With that help, they’ll do as much as the women in the US have done. I’m sure of that.

Students have their first computer lesson.

Students have their first computer lesson.

Top on my helping hand list to Sierra Leone is computer literacy and IT skills.  With those skills, the girls and women of Sierra Leone will lead their country into a 21st Century economy, build a middle class and a bridge to stability.

That’s how Sherbro Foundation started. It was my desire to give girls in the rural community of Bumpeh Chiefdom a first class secondary school education – and cap it off with computer literacy.

We’re ready to get back to both of these – as soon as we can get through this Ebola thing. Teachers are anxious to get back to teaching. We’re starting to rebuild our girls scholarship fund after diverting money for community Ebola response.

The community computer center has been built with 50 computers waiting for students. It will have its grand opening when the schools reopen. (For now, Ebola dictates no public gatherings.) Next step is raising the balance of funds needed for a solar energy system. With solar, we can run into the evening, doubling the classes and offer adult literacy night school.

So, stay tuned for 2015. It looks to be a promising year.

Join us to kick-start the new year. Do some good.  You’ll feel very good.

Arlene Golembiewski
Founder & Executive Director, Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone

Do Good. Feel Good. #GivingTuesday – Dec 2


GT_Phone_2014Do Good. 
Feel Good.

Send help to
Sierra Leone
battling Ebola.

On Tuesday, December 2 people around the world will come together to celebrate generosity and to give.  #GivingTuesday

Help Bumpeh Chiefdom in Sierra Leone emerge from the Ebola crisis and build a better future.

Here’s why I give to Sherbro Foundation and what I want to see in their future.

Share the reason for the season.  Even small gifts make a BIG difference.

$25 pays for:

  •  A week’s food & transportation for a chiefdom Ebola Team Volunteer    
  •  Part of a solar panel bringing power to the Community Computer Center
  •  One girl’s scholarship to attend Jr High School for an entire year   

 It’s easy to Give.  


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Help Sierra Leone more.  Pass this on to a friend.