When Ebola broke out in Thomas Coker’s community, the impact on survivors was enormous.
‘We lost our means of survival which is farming,’ recalls the 49-year-old from Sierra Leone. ‘Business collapsed, workers were made redundant and families lost loved ones; almost every household was mourning losses.
‘After not too long, we began to eat our seeds and sell some of our possessions to make ends meet. In short, we lost hope and dignity. We were virtually looking for a saviour.’
Tearfund’s partner, the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone (EFSL), is running a project to restore hope and dignity to Ebola survivors in this farming-dominated area.
In the midst of the crisis, EFSL supported farmers like Thomas with cash to buy food and other essentials. Beneficiaries were identified through a livelihood survey and talks with community members.
Later, people received help to regain their livelihoods, with training provided to 150 farmers to improve production methods. Cassava cuttings, along with seeds for rice and groundnuts, were also distributed.
‘I felt very happy when I received support for my agricultural work,’ said Thomas. ‘I and my family now have access to food. I planted the rice and groundnut seeds and, to God be the glory, I had a good harvest.
My main aim is to have a coco plantation and complete my four-bedroom house before the rainy season
‘I sold some of the rice and groundnuts and used part of the proceeds to start my building project and rear animals which will be sold eventually. I am now looking forward to the future with hope. My main aim is to have a coco plantation and complete my four-bedroom house before the rainy season.’
And most of those involved in our partner’s training are also happy. In a follow-up survey, 90 per cent of those interviewed reported increased productivity due to the training.
Sierra Leone is currently free of Ebola, but as events in neighbouring Liberia have shown, flare-ups can occur. Sierra Leone has had 14,000 cases of the disease and nearly 4,000 fatalities.
Tearfund is supporting survivors in a number of ways:
- Tearfund partners are training people so they can start new livelihoods and giving small grants to help them set-up businesses.
- 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.