The unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa continues to cause distress and sorrow among families. John Crisci, an experienced aid worker who has been coordinating the WFP emergency response to Ebola in Sierra Leone, tells us about an experience he has never had in his life.
Freetown, Sierra Leone: When John Crisci, an Emergency Coordinator with WFP, came back last week from a field mission in Port Loko, a district about 45 miles east of Freetown, his heart was filled with bitterness and sorrow. In his 25 years of experience with WFP, Crisci had not encountered anything like the difficult circumstances he saw while conducting an assessment mission in the Petifu village.
“Last week, I witnessed Ebola firsthand in a small village, in an area which was quarantined and isolated,” he said. “What struck me most of all was that I saw two young children suffering from Ebola lying in front of the house, and the mother was there helpless.”
As a parent, Crisci thought the mother would embrace the children and comfort them while they were suffering. However, she couldn’t do that because the risk was too high that she would contract Ebola. Instead she had to just watch them powerlessly, hoping for an ambulance to come with a medical team to help.
After several hours, the ambulance arrived and the two children were taken to the nearest holding centre in Port Loko. But it was too late. One of them lost the battle against Ebola. The other is under intensive treatment.
“I hope to see him and his parents healthy when I come back next time in this village,” Crisci said as the child was fighting for life against the Ebola virus.
Crisci’s experience is only one among hundreds of tales of Ebola since the disease became a national concern in Sierra Leone, causing the government to declare a state of emergency on 30 July 2014.
According to the World Health Organization, as of 8 October, nearly 3,000 people across the country have been infected, resulting in 930 deaths since the outbreak. Treatment and holding centres are already overwhelmed and their operational capacities are exhausted. In an effort to contain the spread of the disease, 5 out of 13 districts have been quarantined, restricting the unnecessary movement of those who have potentially been in contact with Ebola-infected people.
In response to the outbreak, the World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up its operations to reach about 600,000 people who have been affected by the Ebola crisis. WFP food assistance helps Ebola patients get the nutrients they need for their bodies to be able to fight the virus. In the quarantined areas, WFP food ensures that people have enough to eat and do not have to leave their homes to look for food.
Beyond the food response, WFP is shifting gears and is supplying key technical assistance, particularly to medical partners, in this unprecedented health emergency. This includes construction, logistics, storage, procurement and transport. WFP is also working with humanitarian partners to boost telecommunications coverage in affected areas to ensure timely response to Ebola.
To ensure continued assistance over the next six months, WFP requires USD 24 million for its Ebola emergency operation in Sierra Leone.