Families fighting cholera in Sierra Leone
Marie, 75 years old, does not feel well. For the first time in her long life she has cholera. While this illness may seem like a thing of the distant past to us, she knows the signs very well.
Last week she was taking care of her 8-year-old grandson Zechariah, helping him to survive the infection. Fighting with him for his young life. Thanks to Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) treatment he is feeling better now. He plays quietly in front of the house, as if nothing out of the ordinary has just happened.
Although happy to see their child fully recovered, the family remains fearful for Maria’s life. Her body is not as strong as Zechariah’s, and she does not seem to have the strength to resist the water-borne disease.
Cholera can kill within hours
42 people are already infected in the small village of Koli Soko, Sierra Leone. It is home to about 2,000 people. Two people have already died. Cholera can kill within hours.
Koli Soko has a small government health centre. But the lack of proper drainage and waste disposal systems, coupled with heavy rains in the last few days, has caused flooding and put the entire community at risk. Marie’s son shows us their only water source: a small, still pond near the village. It is dirty and teeming with mosquitoes.
“It is small, but deep,” he says. “But we are afraid that this water is not safe any more, with so many ill people in the village.” But this is their only option.
Living next door to Maria are John and Yebefula, and their two children Sida, 5, and Moses, 10 months old. Yebefula was infected by cholera and was quarantined for five days with Moses. She is better now, but she is afraid for her husband and the children.
I felt like dying in the last days; I just want to do anything to prevent my children from going through this illness.
The CARE Sierra Leone team is distributing cholera-prevention kits containing soap, ORS and purification tablets to affected families and those at risk in Koli Soko. The team explains to every family how to use the prevention kit. They use pictures and demonstrations to make sure that everybody in the family understands that washing hands, using only boiled water and cooking food thoroughly is a matter of survival in these difficult times.
And people do understand. While the team prepares to leave Koli Soko, Yebefula gives her children a long evening bath using the soap she has just received. Hopefully they will be safe. But many families in Sierra Leone are still waiting to be better equipped in their fight against cholera. In Sierra Leone, CARE is mobilising all efforts to help with emergency aid and to seek long term solutions for villages in need.
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