Today, at Lancaster House, the governments of Sierra Leone and the UK are convening at an international conference to raise funds and discuss strategies to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.
At this conference a joint statement from 34 key ‘on the ground’ NGOs in Sierra Leone, including Street Child, will be read out. It is a powerful statement arising from a NGO workshop convened by DfID on Tuesday and authored by the International Red Cross (IRC).
How it fits with our stated priorities
The statement makes six key recommendations to the international community. Street Child endorses all six fully. However, there are two recommendations which are especially pertinent to our perspective and to which we urge particular attention.
NGO recommendation six, ‘The international community must respond holistically to all impacts of the crisis’, echoes a point that Street Child has been making repeatedly since the Ebola crisis began. It is vital that, now and in particular in the future, attention falls not only on direct victims of Ebola but on its wider consequences, including destroyed family incomes, orphaned children and the impact of school closure. Two of the four pillars of Street Child’s Ebola response address these concerns:
- Ebola orphans: yesterday we pledged immediate, holistic support for 1,000 orphans.
- Livelihoods: especially in quarantined districts such as Bombali (Makeni), Port Loko (Lunsar) & Kenema (under quarantine since July). This will be delivered through a scaling up of Street Child’s excellent Family Business Scheme (FBS). Our aim is to ensure that when we are able to re-open schools, poverty does not prevent children from attending.
Recommendation four, ‘donors, governments and INGOs must support community mobilisation efforts’, reflects Street Child’s greatest short-term priority. It is agreed that the most important thing that can happen for the humanitarian situation is for Ebola to be brought under control. Much effort is going into achieving this at a medical level; Street Child and many NGOs passionately believe that there is a huge amount that can be achieved, in a very cost effective fashion, by containing Ebola at community level. Not enough emphasis is being placed on this. The other two pillars of Street Child’s Ebola response address what we feel are vital actions :
- Intensive Ebola education: deepening ‘useful’ Ebola knowledge, especially in remote communities, so that individuals know how to protect themselves.
- Improving the household quarantine process: Ineffective quarantine is resulting in infection being needlessly spread. There is not enough food, not enough knowledge and not enough protective equipment. Street Child is trying to improve conditions under quarantine and in turn make them more effective.
Today’s conference is vital. It is imperative that massive amounts of resources are released. It is equally important that they are released immediately and that those resources are spent in the most effective ways. This is an unprecedented situation, to which there is no textbook response. Our view, based on what we are seeing with our own eyes on the ground all over Sierra Leone, is that a grassroots level response will be part of the solution.
Click here to view the Joint NGO statement from the Ebola conference.