Speaking at a Press Conference held on Saturday 7th January 2016 at the Social Welfare Ministry Conference Room, the President Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES), Yusuf Kabba, commended President Koroma for his commitment and support showed to them over the years and for introducing the Presidential Recovery Priority Programme which according to him have enabled them to secure a vehicle and office space as well as other supports.
He revealed that SLAES was formed based on the enormous challenges faced by Ebola survivors ranging from post Ebola health problems such as partial blindness, Stigmatization and discrimination in their communities, loss of jobs, homes, educational support, personal items, loss of dignity, self-esteem, and confidence. He added that Ebola survivors from treatment centers including Hastings PTS 1&2, Kerry town, MSF and IFRC Kenema came together to form an association to tackle these challenges and promote, protect, and advocate for survivors nationwide.
Over the past two years, he said, they have been faced with constant challenges but with perseverance they have carried out many activities. He maintained that SLAES began with visits to quarantined homes in the Western Area and visits to discharge locations to encourage and counsel fellow survivors, organized the donation of blood plasmaand mobilized communities to raise awareness about Ebola, travelled to each district in the country to organize members into district teams and carried out anti-stigma and reintegration campaigns in every district.
He revealed that with the support of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, they were able to register and verify 2,945 out of 4,052 survivors into a national database and issued over 600 EVD identification cards.
President Kabba admitted that with support from MSWGCA and its implementing partners they have helped provide skills training to 439 survivors, provided food and non-food items, including rice and clothes, in all districts, adult literacy training, monthly cash incentives of Le 350,000 to 1,496 survivors across 7 districts for 3 months, one-time livelihood support of Le 700,000 to 1,280 survivors across 5 districts, and startup kits for economic empowerment and self-reliance in 7 districts upon completion of skills training.
On the issue of education, “we’ve worked with PIH and DIP to provide hundreds of back-to-school packages to survivors and orphans,” he said adding that with the support from the Ministry, national SLAES representatives recently travelled abroad to reach out to partners in Europe and the United States.
“With capacity training for SLAES, a dedicated office space and an essential assigned vehicle for community outreach, SLAES now has the capacity on a national level to continue with international advocacy on behalf of survivors,” he said.
However, he admitted that there are many challenges currently existing for both survivors and SLAES as an organization, ranging from Health complications and availability of medicines, stigmatization and discrimination, food insecurity and access to housing, unemployment or job insecurity, financial support for school fees and materials, inadequate opportunities for adult education and skills training, inadequate support, housing, education, and food for orphans, some of whom lost both parents and over 20 family members during the epidemic and inadequate support for widows and widowers.