Ebola Appeal Update - Healer's Forum - 21 October 2014

One of the many problems that the Ebola outbreak has brought to the surface in Sierra Leone is the lack of trust between service users and health service providers. People in many areas turned to traditional healers. This was a reaction which was perhaps encouraged by the number of health workers who caught the virus. In Waterloo, the Western Area Rural District Emergency Operations Committee has been established to co-ordinate efforts to stop the spread of Ebola. One of the driving forces behind the EOC is the Hon. Claude Kamanda, representative for constituency 95 where the library is situated.

Rosetta and her team have been working with the EOC to set up an orientation forum for the traditional healers, village-head and tribal heads. This took place on Saturday 19 October 2014. As you can see from the photos, the event was very well attended, with 108 healers.

The primary purpose of the forum was to ensure that the healers understood the threat posed by Ebola and understood that it was a real threat and to help them learn to identify the symptoms and infection control techniques. This way they can help by referring patients rather than potentially spreading the disease. However it was equally important to embrace the healers and bring them within the umbrella of the overall efforts in the fight against Ebola.

Speakers included representatives from the Emergency Operations Committee, Rosetta and Badara from the Waterloo Partnership as well as Jean a representative from UNICEF.

Jean, who is from the DRC shared his experience about the spread of the virus and the dangers of traditional beliefs and superstitions and slow community mobilization. He expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet with everyone and explained to the forum how Ebola could be spread through the tradition of washing or re-using mattresses. Jean reminded everyone that Ebola is non-partisan. It affects everyone whatever their religion or tribe.

One of the most interesting parts of the forum was the responses from the traditional healers. They raised concerns that the Imams, Traditional Healers and Tribal Authorities had been neglected in the fight against Ebola. That was the first forum that they have been invited to and they gave their appreciation to CODEP for that.

More importantly, those present stressed that they would spread the news to all the communities. Now that they have been involved, they will help to fight the virus by enforcing the bye- laws in their communities. They understood that they had no cure for Ebola and would not try and treat it any longer but refer patients to the hospital.

The positive reactions of those present highlight the importance of the forum and suggest that achieved its object of bringing another part of the Waterloo community into the collective fight against Ebola.

We will continue working with the Emergency Operations Committee has been established to co-ordinate efforts to stop the spread of Ebola.

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