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Fighting Ebola Through Local Networks and Know-how

World Hope International Supplies to Fight Ebola 2

World Hope International is providing protective clothing and other supplies to hospitals fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone and is using its networks throughout the country to educate about Ebola.

As the Ebola crisis continues to worsen in West Africa, news stories focus on the exodus of foreigners from the affected countries who manage and staff hospitals, run offices of multinational companies and undertake development projects. As hospitals shut down and economic progress slows, the ramifications have been devastating for the local populations left behind.

Sounds like a familiar development story: when the going gets tough, the foreigners get gone.  Surely, there’s a better way.

When development is bottom up—driven by the people who ultimately benefit—the work continues despite the crisis. World Hope International, an Aid for Africa member organization, has been working in Sierra Leone for 16 years. While much of the funding for the organization’s projects originates in the United States, almost all of its 100 staff members on the ground are from Sierra Leone.

The focus of World Hope’s work is anti-trafficking, malnutrition monitoring, well drilling, and economic development projects in Freetown, the capital, and in Bombali District, located north and east of the capital. Bombali includes Makeni, the fourth largest city in the country. World Hope’s Sierra Leonean staff run all of the projects–from an anti-trafficking center for girls and women in downtown Freetown to a processing factory that turns mangoes and other fruits straight from farmers’ fields into juices for sale.

While World Hope works primarily in Freetown and Bombali District, its networks span the nation. For example, its anti-trafficking staff created a national network of village parent groups that serve as community watch operations, according to Scott Drury, World Hope’s development advisor. World Hope also partners with the Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone whose 30,000 members nationwide help expand the organization’s grassroots footprint and serve as a hub for community development projects throughout the country.

World Hope International ebola-map

As of 9 September, there were about 1500 reported cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone. (c) OCHA

With Ebola spreading—some 1500 reported cases and almost 500 deaths in Sierra Leone as of 9 September—World Hope’s networks are now joining the national response to contain the disease. Volunteer teams are going house to house to explain the facts about Ebola and how to address it. Their networks are disseminating information about how to prevent the spread of Ebola and care for its victims. This commitment and know-how of the people of Sierra Leone will be key to wiping out Ebola there.

World Hope is helping to train health care workers to identify and treat patients and is providing medical supplies, equipment and protective clothing for staff at Kamakwie Hospital in the heart of Bombali District and four other hospitals in the region.

Drury acknowledged that it is critical to keep hospitals open in order to care for patients with Ebola as well as other health needs, such as those seeking treatment for malaria, TB and cholera. Strengthening the primary health care system is a must. “Our staff are committed. This is their country and they want to make it work,” he said.

Learn more about World Hope International and its work in West Africa. Learn more about Aid for Africa member organizations working to improve health care in Sub Saharan Africa.