Ebola Virus Disease(EVD) outbreaks have a great impact on the wellbeing of those affected by the disease, their family and community members and the health workers engaged in treating people with Ebola.
The current outbreak in West Africa started in Guinea in March 2013, spreading across the porous borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia by May 2013. It is unprecedented in its scale, to date (25.8.2014) it has killed over 1,400 people, and has not yet reached its peak. It has affected Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria so far, and may reach other neighbouring countries. In Sierra Leone, a national state of emergency has been called, reflecting the widespread concern over the inability of the Government agencies to manage the condition. In addition to institutional weaknesses, there are significant public health challenges arising from myths and misunderstandings about the disease in the general population. This has meant that awareness-raising messages aimed at controlling spread have often not been accepted by the population.
Communities have been severely affected by Ebola disease in many ways: many people have died in what is a distressing way, many have been separated from their loved ones, or have to cope with quarantine and separation, which is particularly difficult at a time of grieving or being concerned about the welfare of your family. The outbreak has caused the movement of communities away from areas of perceived danger, including across borders.
Health care providers have been overloaded and stressed, particularly by the knowledge that such workers are often disproportionately represented among the victims. Social stigma is increasing towards those who are connected to people with Ebola, worsening distress and isolation. Ultimately, whole communities are experiencing the fear and suffering that disease outbreaks often cause.
This intervention aims to reduce psychological trauma associated with the disease by providing psychological and social support to those affected by the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
This will be done by investing in strengthening the resources available in the country (capable partners already known to CBM), through co-ordinated interventions with other agencies involved in the emergency response, and agencies responsible for oversight such as Government and WHO.
These trained staff will be able to provide an evidence-based first-line intervention, and also be able to refer those with more complex needs to the network of specialist Mental Health Nurses already in place through the EAMH programme.
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