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29 October 2014

Churches lead Ebola education in Sierra Leone

Churches lead Ebola education in Sierra Leone

By Eloise Thomas

An estimated 350,000 people have learnt about Ebola and measures to prevent it through the Church in Sierra Leone.

Tearfund has distributed more than 2,600 hygiene kits through the Church to families.

Patricia Conteh, projects officer in Sierra Leone, says: "The Church is strategically placed to help and has a big role in this fight." 

Tearfund, an alliance member, has used its network of more than 1,000 churches to inform people about prevention measures. With many public gatherings banned, churches are among the few locations where people can learn about Ebola.

The charity has found church leaders are widely trusted.

"Everybody is afraid," warns Patricia. "The rate of infection increases every day and there is now very minimal interaction. We don't hug, we don't shake hands, we don't have contact."

With the Ebola virus proving weak outside the human body, good hygiene can play a crucial role in stopping its spread.

Tearfund has supplied churches with demonstration hygiene kits, which include hand sanitisers, soap and chlorine.

Similar awareness-raising work is being done in neighbouring Liberia by Tearfund's partner the Association of Evangelicals of Liberia and in Mali by partner Association Protestante de la Santé au Mali (APSM).

Christian Aid is delivering emergency food and hygiene kits this week to some of the most vulnerable families under quarantine in two of Sierra Leone's Ebola 'hotspots' to prevent the risk of families starving.

Pregnant women, single mothers, people living with HIV, the elderly and young children are among the 2,100 quarantined residents being targeted in the eastern Kailahun district and in the rural Freetown suburb of Waterloo.

With the national death rate now exceeding 1,000 and the infection rate rising sharply, Christian Aid is working with local health teams to identify the 'at-risk' households in quarantined areas.