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’ in order to prevent families from 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.
The kits contain enough food to give a family a balanced diet for two weeks, including oil, tinned fish, rice, onions and powdered milk. They also include essential hygiene materials such as soap, female sanitary items, chlorine, disinfectant, latex gloves and infra-red thermometers.
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.
Jeanne Kamara, Christian Aid’s Sierra Leone country manager, said: “With the recent surge of cases in Sierra Leone’s hotspot areas, the demand for hospital beds still far outstrips supply. The welcome escalation of international assistance will take time to translate into trained medical personnel and treatment centres. Until then, effective medical treatment is no longer an option for most people. More and more homes are being quarantined for 21 days and many are not receiving enough food to sustain them.
“These emergency kits contain some basic necessities that are essential if quarantine measures are going to be humane and effective. We are giving priority to female-headed households and homes with vulnerable residents in some of the worst-affected areas.
Jeanne Kamara, who is based in Freetown, continued: “We estimate that around a million people nationwide are either in isolated districts or quarantined homes, but sadly, a significant number are going hungry. There have been some notable failures in the coordination of the quarantine process, which has meant food aid has not always reached those who need it the most. The outbreak has hindered people’s ability to earn a living, so tensions are rising as they become increasingly desperate.
“The issue of food security is becoming a very real concern – for some, an even greater concern than the risk of catching the virus. This was demonstrated by a recent stampede during food distribution in the outskirts of Freetown. It’s an unbearable situation for people who live hand-to-mouth, are facing rising food prices and are struggling to sustain already fragile livelihoods.
“The packs we are distributing this week will only feed a family for a fortnight. We desperately need to scale up our response. That’s why Christian Aid needs funds in order to reach more vulnerable households.”
Since the outbreak began, Christian Aid partners have trained hundreds of local volunteers to reach 1.2 million people in Sierra Leone with life-saving advice on Ebola preventative measures. Community health teams have been given vital hygiene supplies, including 200,000 pairs of disposable gloves and over 360kg of powdered chlorine.
To donate to Christian Aid’s Ebola response visit www.christianaid.org.uk/ebolacrisis