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Sierra Leone News: President Koroma commends Childfund

President Koroma entering the main block after cutting the tapePresident Ernest Bai Koroma last Friday commended Childfund for their outstanding work in reuniting Ebola child survivors with their parents, relatives and communities.
President Koroma was speaking in Bo at a ceremony marking the commissioning of the NGO’s Child Care Center to be jointly run by Childfund in partnership with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) and other childcare agencies.
President Koroma said that it was a very good venture taken by Childfund to make sure these children are kept safe and cared for. He noted that the present plight of the concerned children is not of their own making and stressed the need for them to be taken care of as future leaders of tomorrow.
He urged Childfund not to relent and described their undertaking as “a very big and significant job” and “the most important aspect of the Ebola fight” because, according to the President, when people survive a calamity, they need to re-start their lives and they need to be encouraged, assured but not stigmatized.
Responding, the Director of Childfund, Billy Abimbilla said Childfund in collaboration MSWGCA, UNICEF, GOAL and other child protection agencies in the country came up with the idea of Observation Interim Care Centers (OICCs) so that they can address the immediate concerns for the care and protection of children who have been affected by the Ebola virus and are without parental or family care and have no immediate opportunity to receive such care.
The Director said they jointly agreed to establish seven OICCs in seven separate locations to cater for such children, and the one in Bo is the first to be set up.
Billy Abimbilla said one of the big issue is that these children that have survived the Ebola are being stigmatized, by their extended families and communities who themselves are afraid that the children already are/or will become symptomatic for Ebola.
“The purpose of the Observation Interim Care Centre is therefore to serve as temporary shelter for such children who have lost a parent or both, or a caregiver to Ebola and may have come into contact with those who have died at the Ebola treatment centre.”
He said these centres will provide care for such contact children for 21 days to determine whether or not they will become symptomatic. “If symptoms appear within 21 days of stay at the observation centre, such children will immediately be isolated and referred to the nearest Ebola treatment centre.”
The Director said Childfund and the Social Welfare ministry’s intention is to reunite children who have passed 21 days in the centre without symptoms will be reunited with their family and reintegrated into the community.
“It is essential that the observation centers are not transformed into permanent institutions for children, which is why we are opting between family tracing and alternative placements when any of their immediate family member(s) cannot be traced. We are also rigorously engaged in awareness-raising to minimize stigmatization at community levels while the children are in a temporary observation centre,” the Director stated.
He said child survivors are under severe stress and they are facing significant life changes. He said the Ebola outbreak has compounded the apparent loss of livelihoods and has fractured social networks in an environment that was already characterized by high levels of poverty and food insecurity.
Billy Abimbilla stressed the need for families and relatives to take back these children after 21 days as they will no longer pose any infection danger to anyone. “The best care for a child is in a family setting and not in an institution” Mr. Abimbilla stated, and assured that Childfund will continue to work with the MSWGCA and other child protection agencies to ensure that children on temporary holding in their various centers are returned to their families after the 21 days incubation period as long as they are not symptomatic.
He revealed that Childfund is also supporting Ebola affected communities in Kailahun, Bombali and Koinadugu with basic household supplies such as rice, oil, hygiene kits to needy families and disclosed that this operation has cost Childfund USD 138,000.
The Director also announced a donation of a huge consignment of medical supplies to the Government of Sierra Leone to help combat Ebola. The items cost USD 65, 000 and they include 50 cartons of ORS, 10 clinical beds, 2 surgical chairs, 20 cartons of Dripdrop (similar to ORS), 50 surgical gowns, 47 cartons of respiratory covers, 20 cartons of synthetic gloves, 10 pieces of clinical mattresses, 19 cartons of hand gloves, 265 cartons of nose covers, 165 cartons of examination gloves, 97 cartons of disposal syringes, etc.
Minister of Social Welfare, Moijueh Kaikai, was full of praise for the work done by Childfund and other partners. He said it is incumbent on his ministry to make sure every orphan has a place to live and he was thrilled by Childfund.
He said the center will be replicated across the country to ensure that orphans have convenient places to live. He noted that though the work will not be easy, he expressed confidence that the battle against Ebola will surely be won and that the concerned children will have safe homes to stay either with their parents, relatives or good chaperons.
He said the Christian Brothers organization is working with his ministry to trace families or relatives of the Ebola child survivors so that they can be reunited. The Minister revealed that already 45 child survivors have been registered to start operations at the center.
He urged child interest organizations to come onboard and help save the orphans.
Monday November 01, 2014

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