Blog by Colin Rogers, Head of Emergencies at CARE International UK on 4 September.
It’s good to be back in Sierra Leone again. I was last here in 2009. It is a country full of life, with a constant buzz about it. But it’s a country that has faced more than its fair share of problems and is again faced with another problem; cholera.
Over 250 people have died with over 15,000 reported cases. The Government of Sierra Leone has declared a national emergency. CARE, with funding from the British Government’s new Rapid Response Facility, is quickly scaling up its cholera response programme. This is not an easy job when getting to many areas is a logistical challenge at the best of times let alone when hampered by the rainy season. Even in the capital city, Freetown, roads are a disconcerting experience. With potholes everywhere, cars are constantly moving from both sides of the road to avoid them.
To save lives, fast action is needed now, so we are distributing cholera prevention kits to families. Simple measures such as hand washing go a long way to prevent cholera, but this is not easy in a country where safe, clean water supplies are a luxury. I am mindful of how much we take our good quality water supply for granted back in the UK. We are able to drink and cook without fear of getting sick. In Sierra Leone, CARE is making sure that water sources are free from cholera. It is terrifying to think that a person with a severe case of cholera can go from having no symptoms to death within just a few hours.
I just received news from our logistics team that some water purification tablets have arrived from our suppliers in Europe and are being cleared by customs. This is good news. Tomorrow will be a busy day as we receive the items and get them stored in our warehouse for as short a time as possible while we arrange their onward transport to CARE staff in communities working to prevent further cases of this disease.
Safe water in hospital
We are also waiting for a water treatment unit and once it arrives it will be moved immediately to a rural hospital to ensure that patients and medical staff have access to clean and safe water.
Unfortunately, I am returning to the UK tomorrow and won’t be able to travel to the affected communities and see the emergency items being used by families, but after working with the CARE staff in Sierra Leone I know that they are committed to ensuring that supplies are distributed as quickly as possible.
We are working hard, together with the governments of the UK and Sierra Leone, to stop the spread of cholera, and I have just heard CARE will be sending two experts in emergency response (a water and sanitation expert and a team leader) to support the in-country team.
About the author:
Colin Rogers has over 16 years of experience running emergency operations in disaster and conflict affected countries across the globe.
As the Head of CARE International UK’s Emergency Team, Colin is responsible for the management of their work on shelter, emergency response and climate change and hunger.