Since April 2014, in addition to the tragic impact that the Ebola virus had on anyone who contracted it, Ebola was having another deadly impact on Sierra Leoneans: food insecurity.

Sierra Leone had only just begun its recovery from the civil war that ravaged its country and people for eleven years until 2001. When the first cases of Ebola emerged, Sierra Leone was not ready for such a huge strain on its medical and economic infrastructure.

Much of what we heard from our community partners was that families needed immediate food and basic sanitation materials during this time of inflated food prices and limited mobility due to the government mandated quarantines that prohibited travel across district borders. Our supporters rose to the occasion and we were able to send nearly £30,000 worth of support to ensure that families would not starve or suffer as indirect victims of Ebola.

Now, months after the worst of Ebola has passed, Sierra Leone is rebuilding. But they also have successes to build upon, and the strength of their own communities and grassroots organisations to lean on. Today, I’d like to share with you one such microcosm of success.

Before the Ebola epidemic, our partners at the Yala Africa, We Are the Future (WAF) Centre in Freetown were established service providers in their communities. When the Ebola epidemic struck, they knew the impact it would have not only on those infected with Ebola but on the rest of the country. So they set about finding solutions and managed to not only feed fifteen households and provided support for seven Ebola survivors, including reintegrating them into their home community and decreasing stigmatisation of survivors within Aberdeen. How did they go about achieving this?

The first step in this effort was for the Yala Africa team to meet with their ward councillor, who also headed the Ebola community mobilisation team in that area, and determined how to reach out to quarantined families and decided to expand their reach to include Ebola survivors in the Aberdeen community. Bread and Water for Africa UK connected with our partners to discuss the support we would be able to provide and the items that would be distributed to the families.

Next, the ground team met with the local security guards, councillors, and the community representative to plan how the items would be distributed while ensuring the safety of those conducting distributions – for example by having a small group of family heads only present for the distribution. They also decided that the best time to distribute the materials would be a week ahead of the next government scheduled quarantine so that families would have materials to ensure they would get through and comply with the three-day lockdown.

Our partners and those who would be involved in the material distributions received training on proper hygiene and sanitation, as well as the emergency numbers. They in turn explained to the community that the materials being distributed were intended to “ease the pain” associated with the quarantine and help them comply with the rules and lock-down measures.

On March 20th, the food and hygiene items were distributed at a single location with all the planners, community leaders, and household heads, and the Yala team present. The items distributed included 20 bags of rice, sugar, vegetable oil, sardines, salt, milk, water, and soap. All in all, 56 men, 66 women, and 30 children benefited from this essential distribution.

Following the food distribution and hygiene and quarantine reminders, the Yala team identified seven Ebola survivors within the Aberdeen Community and brought the survivors together with community stakeholders to discuss their harrowing experience and welcome them back into the community. Of these survivors, there were two adult males, three adult females, and one female child aged just 2 years old.

The Councillor addressed the survivors and encouraged them to share their experiences and feel that this community still is very much happy to have them. This message is an important one to share considering the stigmatisation and fear facing so many Ebola survivors attempting to re-integrate into the communities they had called home.

Today, the quarantines have ended, Aberdeen is Ebola-free, and our partners have shifted their attention to teaching parents to monitor their children’s health as they begin to return to school and ensuring that survivors can obtain jobs and resettle into their communities. But the process of healing and rebuilding continues. The Aberdeen community extends its sincerest thanks to Bread and Water for Africa UK and our supporters across the UK for thinking of Sierra Leone in their time of extenuating need.