Sierra Leone is a country that has experienced unfathomable loss. Our goal is to bring hope back to the people of Sierra Leone who were affected by the devastating civil war. More than a decade has passed since troops withdrew from the country, but Sierra Leone has yet to shake its war-torn image.
While it is important to realize that the effects of war are long lasting and hard to overcome, it is also important to celebrate Sierra Leone, its people and its culture. Part of restoring hope is igniting and inspiring a population. Producer Sorious Samura is working to do just that.
'Sierra Leone: An Artist's Journey,' is a feature-length documentary film that will focus on the country's celebrated playwright, Charlie Haffner. The viewer will follow Haffner on his mission to produce a play unlike anything the country has ever seen. Samura hopes to illuminate a Sierra Leone that the world has yet to see.
As an organization working to strengthen the futures of the citizens of Sierra Leone it is refreshing and inspiring to see the country's best resource, its people, in the spotlight.
Learn more about their film at their website SierraLeoneFilm.com
While it has been over a decade since the Kimberly Process was established in an effort to stop the trade of conflict diamonds, the industry is still riddled with the illegal gem stones, creating a moral conflict for many looking to purchase diamond jewlery or engagement rings. However, 2015 has seen the rise of a new player in the diamond game.
Diamond Foundry, based in California's Silicon Valley, is creating eco-friendly and human rights-friendly diamonds all from their reactor site in Canada. The reactor reaches incredibly high temperatures in order to construct a diamond that is "indistiguishable from its natural counterpart" in the timespan of about a month. Their use of natural energy, however, ensures a zero carbon footprint and sets them apart from their competitors. The company has recieved support from a dozen high-profile investors, including the star of the 2007 film "Blood Diamond," Leonardo DiCaprio.
Companies such as Diamond Foundry are playing an important role in the process of eliminating blood diamonds from the global market. While the Kimberly Process was effective in reducing the number of conflict diamonds, it left a number of loopholes unadressed.
While many are now aware of the realities behind the diamond industry, knowing the true origin of a diamond when shopping is difficult. Diamond Foundry, and other synthetic diamond companies, are growing in popularity and providing an option for those looking to be 100% sure their diamond is conflict-free.
On November 7, 2015 the Ebola Epidemic that swept through West Africa was officially declared over, with zero cases. Initially, the epidemic was considered over earlier this year in January. Unfortunately, cases continued to appear through unknown channels. The World Health Organization has pledged to continue its support of West Africa and toward the recovery of the region's infrastructure. This news has come to a relief to the WHO, the UN, the CDC, and all the citizens of the affected countries. It truly is a testament to these organizations and the governments of the Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone to come together and combat this deadly virus.
This epidemic has been called the worst Ebola outbreak in history, with a total of 11,314 deaths and 28,635 infected. The majority of the cases being in August of 2014 due to the lack of medical supplies and the urgency of the response. With the aid of organizations like the WHO the numbers of new infected patients began to drop rapidly. Citizens came from all over the globe to help aid in the fight against the epidemic, Hands for Africa raised a substantial amount of money to offer the citizens help and also donated an abundance of the essential supplies needed by the medical workers on ground zero.
It's easy to dismiss the Ebola Epidemic as just another issue that happens on that "lost continent" of Africa. With all its civil wars, sickness, disease, and famine; we forget that the men, women, and children involved are much like ourselves, with childhoods, memories, and families; not just a black face on the news. They laugh as we laugh, cry as we cry, and feel just as we feel. It seems as though many of us have become accustomed to seeing the pain and suffering on that lost continent and have become almost numb to it. The Ebola Epidemic was in no way a positive thing, but there is a silver lining. As a world we saw people from across the world come together, nations cooperate, and we were able to see first hand, just how much humanity still exist not only on the continent of Africa but in the world as a whole. And many people gave their lives for the sake of others. Over 500 healthcare workers from around the world died fighting the epidemic. These people are heroes in their own right and their sacrifices are not only brave, but also a beacon of hope. There is still hope for all those victims and survivors. Hope that Hands for Africa continue to stand for. Restore Hope.
Throughout the epidemic the practice of safe burial practices have been a major player in the transmission of the Ebola virus disease (EVD). In fact, safe burial practices are so important that, when not performed, we see a jump in the number of confirmed cases in the entire prefecture the burial was performed; in September up to sixty-percent of transmissions were due to funerals (United Nations, 2014). So why aren't they happening? There are a multitude of reasons for unsafe burial practices to take place but from what we are seeing, the main reasons are: lack of knowledge and cultural norms. We'll delve into why the traditional burial practices of the West African nations matter and then we get into the "how to."
Like most cultures, citizens of the countries affected by EVD have their own burial rituals. Here in the United States when someone dies we often have a traditional style funeral. A body is placed in a casket, family and friends have a visitation period, there's funeral service, followed by the burial service and sometimes a luncheon or gathering to mourn the dead. We often wear black and greet each other and offer help- it's just part of the culture. Just like the ones here in the United States, the citizens of Sierra Leone have rituals to mourn the dead. Family and friends gather and the body is often wash, touch, and kiss the dead. This is where tradition is challenged by instance.
Ebola is a highly contagious, viral, hemorrhagic fever spread from person to person through blood, urine, sweat, spit, vomit, semen, and even breast milk (a reason why we are seeing infants infected with the virus). When a person is infected with Ebola, the infected does not see the symptoms for about seven days. That leaves a week for any one of those channels of transmission to pass on unnoticed. After the initial symptoms like headaches, fevers, fatigue, and muscle soreness, the infected will experience a high fever and vomit blood. (You can probably already see the problems here). At the beginning of the second week the infected may suffer brain damage, bruising on the skin from blisters, and will being bleeding from his/her orifices. By the middle of the second week the victim will begin to go in and out of consciousness, experience seizures and massive internal hemorrhaging, and eventually pass away. The lack of education given to the people of Sierra Leone coupled with the traditional burial practices make the country very susceptible to the transmission of the virus.
So amidst all of this, how do are the healthcare workers safely burying the dead? The challenge lies in giving a safe but dignified funeral for the deceased. The World Health Organization (WHO) has partnered with various other health-related and religious organizations to create an effective yet respectful burial protocol.
To being with, the health worker teams must assemble their long list of equipment including: disposable gloves, goggles, masks, outer gloves, rubber boots, a coverall suit, a plastic apron, disinfectant spray made up of chlorine, leak and puncture proof containers, leak proof disposable bags, and a body bag. Its a cornucopia of equipment, which only makes sense. After, they head to the victim's house. Respectfully the healthcare workers are instructed to offer condolences before doing anything with the body or putting on the gear. This humanizes the situation, just imagine a group of 4-6 people coming to your house in disinfectant gear, it wouldn't be the most pleasant feeling. Only after paying respects the team will move in to clear the body.
Two people are then sent into the house to retrieve the body. The body is placed into the body bag which is then sprayed with disinfectant and taken outside of the house or building. Once the body is outside the rest of the team is moves into the building and has to spray the entire house down. Every room, every object the victim touched, and every item the victim may have had contact with is sprayed. Of course special attention is paid to the area the body was initially removed from and anything the victim touched.
Once the house is sprayed down an material the victim's body is placed in a coffin and the family is given time to grieve,. During this time the team must gather any belongings that were soiled by the victim and take them to be burned elsewhere (this shows just how contagious the virus is). Now that the body is safely in a coffin and any infected object burned, the team may remove their protective gear, disinfecting the the reusable gear and burning the disposable gear. The process is quite tedious. Imagine going to and from a house with a grieving family with a deadly virus floating around, all the while burning the very clothes on your back.
After this step, the coffin is taken to the burial site and the funeral procession can begin. When the body is in the coffin the team no longer has to wear the protective gear because the channels in which the virus spreads are not blocked, though everyone must exercise caution. This allows the healthcare workers to add more of a humanitarian aspect to the funeral, rather than burying the dead in the gear seen above.
After the funeral session the healthcare workers may finally leave the sight and return to the headquarters or a hospital. The process takes hours. Any reusable equipment must be once again disinfected and any equipment that was not initially burned, must then be burned. The car that was used to transport the workers and the victim must be completely disinfected. It's a tedious, yet vital, process. So there you have it, a safe burial.
Since November of 2014, the Ebola virus has showed signs of slowing down as HFA and other organizations work to stop the outbreak. But before we start on this month, we'll fill you in on what happened in between. There's plenty of numbers and facts, and yes sometimes its tedious, but it should give you a good idea about what's going on in West Africa and the Ebola Epidemic.
In December, Sierra Leone exhibited high number of total cases, nearly 9,500, the highest of the three West African countries effected by the epidemic The district of Tonklili in Sierra Leone was added to the five districts part of a lock down, joining Bombali, Port Loko, Kailahun, Kenema, and the Western Area. Nearly 1,000 new cases had been reported in December with deaths in the country totaling 2,758 (WHO). The diamond rich district of Kono in east Sierra Leone was put on lock-down, adding to the list of districts being quarantined. Because of the growing number of cases, public festivities for Christmas and New Years were banned in order to keep the population safe. The WHO did see a slow down in total case incidences in the country as people recovered from the virus, giving hope to all those following the story. Liberia also exhibited a high number of cases, a total of 8,018 (WHO), though case incidences had been declining at a national level since mid-November; experts predicted Liberia will continue to see less and less cases as time goes on. Guinea reported 2,707 (WHO), unlike Liberia and Sierra Leone, there was no discernible trend in the number of transmissions in the country. The fluctuations in new case incidences was a cause for concern for those on the ground. With the month coming to a close, a total of 20,206 (WHO) people were infected with the Ebola virus and 7,905 (WHO) people had died.
Going into January the CDC, WHO, and the UN began the second phase of the operation: from slowing the epidemic down to ending it. Efforts focused on building infrastructure, case management, community engagement, and the practice of safe burials (burial rituals were a major cause of the early and rapid spread of the virus). Because of these procedures, case incidences began falling and continued to do so throughout the first month of the year. Though this was good news, the fatality rate among hospitalized cases still floated around 60% in the three affected countries. Healthcare workers also began feeling the affects of the virus. A total of 816 workers had been confirmed as infected with 488 reported deaths. Though the spread of the virus was showing signs of slowing down due to the work done by HFA, CDC, UN, WHO, and various different organizations, total deaths of those already infected, increased from 7,905 in December to 8,795 (WHO).
Though December and January displayed a decline in the number of new case incidences in Sierra Leone, February proved to be different. Eight districts within the country reported new confirmed cases as reports began arising from unknown chains of transmission. The northwestern district of Bombali showed sharp increases, causing transmissions to be spread outward toward the coastal districts of Port Loko and Kambia in the west. According the the World Health Organization, fifteen unsafe burials took place during the month in the district of Bombali, once again showing the importance of safe burials. Meanwhile in Liberia, the virus showed signs of slowing down. Only two districts had confirmed cases in over a month. The nineteen Ebola Treatment Centers (ETCs) in the country had been assessed and all met minimum standards, coupled with the low number of new cases, it's proof that the facilities and precautions taken in Liberia are working. In Guinea, we continued to see fluctuations in the number of case incidences. This is partially due to the difficulty the organizations on the ground are having in engaging with the community. As more precautions are implemented, we expected to see a more stabilized rate of case incidences. Despite the higher number of cases in Sierra Leone, the month of February ended on a high note with the World Health Organization announcing that "the infrastructure, systems, and people needed are now in place to end the epidemic; response measures must now be fully implemented."
So present day. March. What happened this month?
The third week of the month saw the lowest number of confirmed cases of the year. Guinea is showing signs of improvement: cases declined in every district. It looks like transmissions has been contained to the area of Conakry, just north of Sierra Leone. Liberia continues to show improvement, exhibiting only a few cases the entire month. Although Sierra Leone had a shaky month in February, the country continues to see an overall downward trend in the number of confirmed cases. The number of cases continues to decline in almost all the districts in the country. Freetown is showing signs of virus activity, but as stated above, continues a downward trend. Experts predict the epidemic to end in August.
HFA will continue to support the citizens of Sierra Leone in their battle against Ebola, visit "Our Programs" page to donate medical provisions to those working on ground zero to help #StopEbola.
As the Ebola Epidemic continues throughout West Africa the CDC, WHO, and UN have continued their mission to to help eliminate the virus. The UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) led by the World Health Organization (WHO) "remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting the government's of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone." The UNMEER program is a temporary measure to meet the immediate needs related to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. It does this by adopting a UN system-wide approach led by the WHO; using its assets to compliment the governments of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone; and creating a response that is specific to the needs of each country.
Currently, there have been a total of 11,383 reported cases of Ebola is the three West African countries; 5,878 of those coming from Sierra Leone. The WHO has seen a decrease in the "greatest cumulative incidence rates" in the countries of Liberia and Guinea. The "greatest cumulative incidence rates" is the number of incidences greater that 100 per 100,000 people. Though the concentration of incidences over 100 is greatest in the district of Montserrado, Liberia; Sierra Leone is seeing incidence rates over one hundred in five districts including; Bombali, Kailahun, Kenema, Port Loko, and the Western Area. The number of new cases is said to be decreasing in Liberia and Guinea, though they have reported seeing a steep increase in new incidences in Sierra Leone. Though over 5,000 deaths have been reported, transmissions of the virus have been interrupted in the countries of Nigeria and Senegal, maintaining the spread of the virus.
The map below shows the reports of new incidences of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. The districts of Bombali, Kailahun, Kenema, Port Loko, and the Western Area of Sierra Leone are some of the most affected.
On Sunday October 5, 2014 Founder of Hands For Africa, Mr. Alton Harding and Marketing/Development Director, Ms. Jenny Davidson, had the privilege of hearing first-hand the recent work Dr. Dan Kelly, M.D., Infectious Disease Specialist of UC San Francisco, on the epidemic of the Ebola outbreak. Dr. Kelly alongside co-founder Mohamed Bailor Barrie, M.B.Ch.B., founded a non-profit, The Wellbody Alliance Clinic (www.wellbodyalliance.org) in Sierra Leone. The partnership between The Wellbody Alliance and Hands For Africa came about in the common interest to serve Sierra Leoneans with the highest quality of healthcare possible. Amputee survivors from the Blood-Diamond Civil War did not have access to the healthcare they needed, so Hands For Africa became an advocate and The Wellbody Alliance Clinic became a refuge. Together today we continue to save lives and restore hope.
Dr. Kelly, without hesitation, upon receiving the news of the death of a friend and colleague due to Ebola in August, booked a flight within 48 hours to West Africa and immediately responded to the call of combating Ebola. He shared first-hand insight on the devastation of Ebola; over 6,000 people are infected, over 3,000 people dead. “What I was seeing first-hand when I was in these Ebola isolation wards… I was seeing patients that were sitting across the room from somebody dying and curled up in a ball … and there for days, while their blood results were coming back … ultimately negative, and going back to the community and saying it was a horrible, HORRIBLE experience.”
Ebola is infecting people of all social backgrounds, it is not just infecting poor people, but rich people, people with an educated background, everyone. For every 20 days, Dr. Kelly and his team is seeing an exponential growth of Ebola. At the rate of its growth, there is very little ground support. There is a plea for more boots on the ground as Dr. Kelly reiterates, “we need to respond with a community based response and create a continuum of care.” The response to this epidemic has been slow and therefore services to treat Ebola have been delayed causing its spread outside the borders of Africa.
Why is Ebola a global threat? Dr. Kelly’s response verbatim: “Sierra Leone is just coming out of a civil war, their healthcare system is dysfunctional, by the time we realized there was Ebola in Sierra Leone, we were dealing with Ebola cases all throughout West Africa, so size was an issue. We were also very slow to respond and just the chronicity of this outbreak really made it widespread before we were able to react. It was really hard to control via traditional healthcare measures. So chronicity was also an issue, and then finally that it was in multiple cities and it was really hard to just track people down and try to find contacts of patients. In summary we are dealing with a fragile healthcare system as a root cause of this problem, we are looking at an unparallel situation where the size, the lacking response, the chronicity there, and urbanization are key factors in this outbreak growing to partial pandemic portions and becoming more and more like a global threat.”
So what is the appropriate response to this Ebola Outbreak? In a recent report, 1.4 million infections are expected by mid January 2015. Dr. Kelly believes that if we implement appropriate preventive measures that we will not see 1.4 million infections. Rather, Dr. Kelly proposes a 70% rule. “If we can get 70% of patients infected by Ebola into treatment units then we can affectively stop this epidemic, we can solve this crisis.” How do we get 70% of infected patients in treatment centers? “How do we get 70% in treatment centers? Especially when were dealing with places people feel force to go and die in. And nobody wants to be surrounded by white people in space suits and isolated from their families and scared.” Dr. Kelly is pleading for the same preventive measures as Director of CDC (Center for Disease and Control Prevention), Dr. Tom Frieden, “laboratories, trained public health staff, tracking systems, emergency response, and an infection control” (Oct 09, 2014 01:21 PM Video from Health ABC News).
So what is the call to action? “We need to act now, because this is a crisis situation, if we don’t, the crisis is going to get bigger, more expensive to clean up, and we’re going to see more infections here in America.”
By: Jenny Davidson
Ebola is a deadly virus that started in the 1970’s and has claimed over 5000 lives since its inception, mostly in West Africa. The virus is transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids such as: blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen of an infected person showing symptoms. The incubation period is between 2-21 days, so sometimes an infected individual might not show symptoms until 21 days later. This virus has a 50% fatality rate with victims that are infected; therefore, it is almost a death sentence to contract the virus. Ebola has been a problem for West Africa, but now it is at your doorstep.
Thomas Eric Duncan, the first victim infected with Ebola in America just lost his life to the deadly virus. Mr. Duncan contracted the virus in Liberia and traveled to Texas on September 19th. He started showing symptoms on September 24th, and went to a Dallas hospital for treatment September 26th. He was released with antibiotics and returned two days later diagnosed with the deadly virus. His family couldn’t watch the effect Ebola had on Mr. Duncan. Mr. Duncan went through the typical blood clots and blood vessels becoming inflamed that made it very difficult for family members to look at. The airplane that Mr. Duncan traveled with is currently not at risk, because he did not show his symptoms during his time of traveling, but Mr. Duncan’s family is now at risk of being infected with the Ebola virus and they are currently being quarantined. Over one dozen people are being tested for the virus because of just one victim, and tests cannot be confirmed for another 21 days. If Mr. Duncan went to any public facility and released any bodily fluids by touch, then those exposed are also at risk of contracting Ebola. CDC has now confirmed that this incident in Texas is not isolated and urgent aid is needed to combat this virus.
The CDC has announced that Public Health is a sector that governments under invest in, and the current costs could’ve have been just 1% of what they are now to combat the disease; if proper prevention methods were applied from the start, such high costs could’ve been prevented. The CDC is now begging the governments and people of all nations to get involved to help combat this deadly disease. The CDC also mentioned that there is a new case in Australia and also in South Africa. The issue is that infected victims are traveling to other countries prior to showing symptoms and then becoming extremely ill in that other country. The reality is that Ebola can show up anywhere. If one infected Ebola victim traveled to Los Angeles, or any other city, and decided to get Starbucks; then any thing or anyone he touches will contract the virus. The worst part is the infected victims might not find out until 21 days later; therefore, any individual they came in contact with during the incubation period of 2-21 days becomes at risk of contracting the virus. Ebola is not a West African problem anymore. It is a world problem, and it is at our doorstep. Please help combat this deadly virus by donating to www.handsforafrica.org. Your donation will help save lives and stop the spread.
By: Oneill Taylor
Obama stated on Tuesday that up to 3000 US Military personnel will travel to West Africa to help combat the deadly Ebola virus. Health experts around the globe believe they have weeks not months to contain this virus. Dr. Jim Yong Kim stated that no one country or organization will be able to tackle the Ebola problem. China is sending more medical experts to Sierra Leone, which would increase the number of Chinese medical experts in Sierra Leone to 174. This is very helpful, because the biggest need with the Ebola crisis is medical staffing and funding. US is hoping to get congress to approve a $500 million dollar bill which would be just $100 million short of the projected amount needed to fully combat the Ebola virus.. Currently the stock market in the US and China have many eager investors investing in companies that could potentially develop the vaccine for Ebola, and this will further give additional incentives to the pharmaceutical industry. With all the efforts of countries around the world and organizations like Hands for Africa, WHO, and Doctors without Borders, ending the Ebola Epidemic is looking like a reality
Some of the questions being asked by many individuals that are assisting with the Ebola virus are “How do we prevent such an epidemic from occurring in the future?” And “what are the next steps?” A great article written by Mr. Kortor Kamara touches on some of the options for Sierra Leone’s medical industry. Here is a summary of that article: The medical industry should go private, because Privatization will motivate hospitals that want to gain a higher rate of return on their investment to provide state of the art equipment and better service. There will be competition for the consumer, and this will create a more adequate system. In this new system, the government will be responsible for monitoring and ensuring that the private firms are offering adequate services. The government managed Health System must be dismantled. The underemployed and unemployed must be provided insurance by the government. Private Insurance companies need to ensure that they implement effective methods of underwriting, in order to make sure that they lower risk. Mr. Kortor Kamara has answered the questions concerning “How do we prevent such an epidemic from occurring in the future?” And “What are the next steps?” While these plans are still in the works, let us remember that Sierra Leone needs our help today, as they are still continuing the fight with Ebola. There is a vast need for protective gear, medical supplies and medical facilities. Please help by donating at www.handsforafrica.org.
The Updated numbers on Ebola by Maureen Mackey of Yahoo News is below:
4,985: The number of reported cases of Ebola so far, according to U.N. officials in Geneva. Actual numbers could be far higher.
2,461: The number of reported deaths so far, says the same source. Half these victims died in the last three weeks.
20,000: The projected number of Ebola cases if the outbreak is not controlled, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
250,000: The projected number of cases by other groups.
$600 million: The smallest amount needed to control the epidemic in West Africa in the next six to nine months, per WHO.
$13 million: The amount France has sent so far to Guinea for two tons of medical equipment and the creation of medical centers.
$15.5 million: The amount France has sent to Senegal and Ivory Coast.
24: The number of doctors France has sent to Senegal and Ivory Coast.
$500 million: The amount the Obama administration is asking Congress to redirect from existing Defense Department funds to fight Ebola.
11: The number of chief executives of firms in the region that have joined the call for world leaders to help fight the disease.
$150,000: The amount donated by Exxon Mobil to the Liberian National Red Cross.
550: The number of tons of medical supplies sent to West Africa by Unicef in the past several weeks.
17: The number of treatment centers with 100 beds each the American military is planning to build in Liberia.
14: The number of counties in Liberia – out of 15 – that have reported confirmed cases so far.
1,000: The number of beds needed in Liberia in the next week alone to contain the disease, according to Liberian officials.
500: The number of health care workers to be trained each week once the U.S. military sets up the medical facilities.
2-21 days: Ebola's incubation period, or interval from infection to the onset of symptoms, though typically symptoms appear 8-10 days after exposure.
As high as 90 percent: The illness's fatality rate.
As long as 2 weeks: The amount of time it will take U.S. personnel to begin setting up the earliest treatment centers.
3 days: The amount of time some dead bodies are left in homes and neighborhoods in Liberia “before they are taken away by burial teams” that are vastly overwhelmed, reports The Times.
0: The number of licensed available vaccines for Ebola, though several are being tested.
1976: The year of the first human outbreaks.
4. WHO, The New York Times, National Journal, Government Executive, Reuters, CNN
By: Oneill Taylor
Hands for Africa
Hands for Africa is a non-profit organization working to restore lost hope to those devastated by the civil war in Sierra Leone. We support amputee victims by developing and implementing self-reliance programs and providing the necessary aid for the advancement of these programs.