Thimborno was one of the first places in Sierra Leone to be hit by Ebola – out of 50 people infected only 14 survived. Tearfund’s Charlotte Flowers has been finding out how your support for our work has been helping residents recover.
We arrived at Thimborno, in Port Loko, to be welcomed by a large group already sitting in a circle on benches in the shade of a tree.
Bimba Conteh, the chairman, greeted us and thanked us for coming. There was no hand shaking, just smiles and acknowledgements, in an awkward, knowing way.
The chairman explained how this community was one of the first to be hit by Ebola. They had never heard of it before, and didn’t know if they should trust the men in white space-like suits who came to take the sick away.
Those who died were not seen after they were taken to the treatment centre. One lady told us she still doesn’t know where her relatives are buried.
The entire community was quarantined by the army, unable to go anywhere. For Thimborno, so reliant on farming, this was devastating.
IT HASN'T BEEN EASY
‘EFSL (Tearfund’s partner) were the only NGO to come,’ Bimba said. ‘They brought us food and other items and later provided tools and seeds to help revitalise the farming. But it hasn’t been easy.’
Bimba explained how lack of food meant some were so desperate, all they had to eat was the seeds for planting crops. However the community will be ready for the May planting season because Tearfund’s partner has supplied replacement seeds.
Rice has been a lifeline. Pre-Ebola, a villager might produce up to 20 bushels of rice but because of the lack of access to the land and food during quarantine, they have not been able to plant as much as before.
When we asked how many bushels of rice had been gathered lately, one person proudly put their hand up and said they started with one bushel and now they have five. Another four, another six.
From the smiles, it was clear their confidence was returning: ‘We will plant at the right time and by God’s grace we will harvest more,’ said one.
There is now hope to face the future, summed up by one woman called Rabiatu: ‘This is what EFSL have done, all of this.
‘The [Ebola] deaths have broken our hearts. We want to smile and laugh together as normal. Inshallah now we will, now we move forward by God’s grace.’
Her comments struck a chord – spontaneous applause broke out among the group.
What we’re doing to help the EBOLA recovery:
- Tearfund partners are training people so they can start new livelihoods and giving small grants to help them set-up businesses.
- Survivors are receiving agricultural training and benefiting from distributions of seeds and tools.
- Children orphaned by Ebola are being supported so they can continue their education, while receiving ongoing psychosocial help.
- Access to water and sanitation is being improved, as well as awareness of good hygiene practices.