Sierra Leone

Read about our current response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

Country History

Sierra Leone has a bounty of natural resources and a troubled history. This small West African country has the world’s largest known reserves of titanium and is a leading producer of diamonds, but corrupt rule and a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002 have left Sierra Leone’s 5.4 million people among the poorest in Africa. The war also devastated the health care system, a reality that had tragic consequences when Ebola entered the country. The outbreak, which ran from May 2014 to November 2015, led to some 14,000 cases—more than any other country. Sierra Leone is still at-risk of Ebola, as flare-ups are expected for some time, while the long shadow of the virus is still felt in communities across the country who are now trying to rebuild and recover.

Country Response

International Medical Corps first started working in Sierra Leone in 1999 in response to the country’s brutal civil war. Between 1999 and 2008, International Medical Corps provided a broad range of emergency health care services to victims of the civil war in Sierra Leone and refugees fleeing a similar conflict in neighboring Liberia. Our work included primary health care, mental health, and HIV/AIDS programs. Following a two-year absence, International Medical Corps launched an ambitious five-year food security program in 2010 to prevent malnutrition in children under two years of age.

When the Ebola outbreak started in Sierra Leone in March 2014, International Medical Corps built upon existing relationships with communities and went house-to-house to teach families about the virus. As the outbreak intensified and the government announced a state of national emergency, International Medical Corps ramped up our response to help curb the spread of the virus. We provided direct treatment to Ebola patients through three Ebola Treatment Centers (ETCs) and trained health care workers and other professionals in Ebola case management. These efforts were complemented by psychosocial support for patients, their families, and communities. In local hospitals and health facilities, we improved infection and prevention (IPC) standards and Ebola prevention and response mechanisms, an effort that helped make health care workers more confident to return to work and patients comfortable to seek care.

QUICK FACTS

  • Population

    Population
    5.9 Million

  • age

    Median Age
    19 Years

  • life

    Life Expectancy
    57.79 Years

  • life

    Fertility Rate
    4.08 children per mother

  • Infant Mortality Rate

    Infant Mortality Rate
    71.68 deaths/1000 live births

OUR PROGRAMS IN SIERRA LEONE

  • Emergency Response and Preparedness

  • Family and Community Health

  • Health Services Support

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

  • Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

  • Nutrition and Food Security

International Medical Corps staff talk about the Ebola crisis and what it’s like to work in an Ebola Treatment Unit.

First Responders talk to the media about our Ebola response and staying safe while providing critical health care.

CURRENT PROGRAMS

Food Security

International Medical Corps is implementing a Sustainable Nutrition and Agriculture Promotion (SNAP) program to prevent malnutrition in children under two years of age. Since 2010, we have been working with health care providers to strengthen the country’s capacity to prevent and treat childhood illnesses and malnutrition. We are also targeting over 29,500 mother-child units with food rations and intensive behavior change communications campaigns using the mother care group model. More than 18,000 mothers have been enrolled in the program and 615 men as partners also participate, bringing them under the direct guidance and instruction of International Medical Corps-trained staff and health promoters. Mothers are learning good health and hygiene practices, appropriate feeding strategies for young children, preparation methods for nutritious meals using local foods, and other skills they can share and use long after the project has ended.

Ebola Treatment Centers

International Medical Corps opened three ETCs, the first in Lunsar in November 2014 and then in Makeni and Kambia. Throughout the course of the outbreak, the ETCs screened 2,068 people and treated 290 Ebola patients, of whom 113 survived. All of our staff, from health care workers to burial team workers, followed rigorous IPC control measures, keeping them safe and preventing the spread of the virus. This was largely made possible by water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) efforts that provided a constant supply of pure and chlorinated water to the ETCs and made it possible for equipment to be decontaminated and safe to use.

Psychosocial care was integrated into our Ebola case management efforts so that patients and their families had one-on-one support from admission to discharge or burial. When patients passed away, we invited families to attend ceremonies at gravesites with marked headstones, honoring important cultural traditions, while also following strict safety protocols. As the outbreak subsided, the ETCs were decommissioned and the staff who we trained in Ebola case management are returning to the national health system or other employment, taking these skills and knowledge with them.

Training Facility in Lunsar

International Medical Corps built and continues to manage a permanent training center adjacent to our ETC in Lunsar where our teams worked to build local health capacity through education. The center has classrooms, housing for visiting trainees, laundry and kitchen facilities, and a mock ETC for training simulations. Before working in the ETCs, all International Medical Corps staff and other health care workers and professionals in Sierra Leone were trained in Ebola case management through classroom and simulation-based work at the center. In addition to education around Ebola, International Medical Corps staff facilitated classes on psychosocial support, community health, and other areas as part of a wider effort to improve the health of local populations.

Screening and Referral Units

We also launched a mentorship program for mental health clinicians and social workers in Bong and Margibi Counties. The training not only equips mental health practitioners with the skills to provide mental health support to patients, but also helps them to identify people with mental health conditions and how to best refer them so that they get the care they need. Our psychosocial teams continue to provide one-on-one support to Ebola survivors and other families who were heavily impacted by the virus. They are also organizing community reconnection groups that bring people together in towns that were torn apart by Ebola.

RESOURCES

Sierra Leone Capabilities Statement

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