A DAY after World AIDS Day was marked, a similar stigma – once associated with the condition – is now hindering the containment of the Ebola virus in West Africa, according to humanitarian agency World Vision.
World Vision Australia’s Head of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Majella Hurney said staff on the ground are reporting that widespread fear and misunderstanding of Ebola is hampering the response in Sierra Leone.
“People are living in extreme fear of this virus. A lack of understanding of the disease and the awful scenes of suffering they have witnessed in their communities are causing them to believe that those taken to health clinics for treatment don’t return,” Ms Hurney said.
“Despite risking their own lives for the good of their society, sadly even health workers are being stigmatised, with communities fearing that they carry Ebola.”
Humanitarian organisations, such as World Vision, are training community leaders and educating the public on Ebola in an effort to combat the stigma. This important awareness-raising program – due to be expanded nationally across Sierra Leone – informs people about how the virus spreads, how to respond if someone shows symptoms of the infection, preventative measures and dispels misconceptions.
With Ebola panic spreading across the US, a social media campaign aims to counter discrimination. ‘I am a Liberian, not a virus’ has gone viral on Facebook and Twitter with Liberians posting photos of themselves in an effort to stamp out the stigma.
“The direct and indirect impact of the Ebola virus on children in affected communities is immense,” Ms Hurney said. “Not only are children at risk of dying from Ebola, but there are many children that have been orphaned or separated from their families after their parents have contracted the infection.
“World Vision is providing support to orphans and vulnerable children affected by the disease to ensure their safety and wellbeing,” Ms Hurney said.
World Vision was the first organisation to distribute a large number of protective personal equipment items across Sierra Leone. However, despite great efforts to supply the protective gear to health centres around the country, many hospitals and health workers in Sierra Leone still do not have sufficient supplies to meet the immense demand.
To donate to World Vision Australia’s Ebola Appeal call 13 32 40 or visit www.worldvision.com.au
Source: World Vision Australia
Image Source: The Guardian