This article was originally posted on Ebola Deeply.
By Khadi Mansaray
The Disabled International Foundation Sierra Leone (DIF-SIL) works with more than 500 people with disabilities in Sierra Leone. Khadi Mansaray talked to founder and executive director Imambay Kadie Kamara about how the Ebola outbreak has impacted them.
Ebola Deeply: How many disabled people do you currently work with, and how do you assist them?
Kamara: We work with all categories of disabilities. We started with a little under 200 people, but now have over 500 beneficiaries. Many have families. We provide scholarships for their children to attend school, and for the women of the families, we offer micro-credit, to ensure they are financially sustained.
Ebola Deeply: What has been their biggest challenge during the Ebola crisis?
Kamara: The crisis itself has been a challenge, as it adds more stress to an already vulnerable group who find it all extremely scary. It is harder for them, especially those with families, to find sufficient food. As some of them are homeless and their living conditions poor, they are more exposed to the virus. Another unfortunate challenge is some of the places they use for shelter are being shut down. This puts a stretch on resources.
It has been very hard for them but we give them hope and words of encouragement, which seems to lighten their moods and take their mind off the reality of the situation. Unfortunately, about 20 have been victims of the virus.
Ebola Deeply: What measures did you take to help them keep safe? And how have you supported them through the crisis?
Kamara: Since the start of the outbreak, we have done a lot of workshops and awareness campaigns on ways to prevent the virus, and how to keep safe. We have also distributed medical supplies and provided food. I have written to the UK and U.S. governments with my concerns and asked for more help. Fortunately, British Prime Minister David Cameron replied to me and informed that he had sent my letter to the international committee, who went on to reply too. I also hosted a conference in the Houses of Parliament in London, where Sierra Leoneans and British MPs discussed what has already been done, and what our next steps should be.
Ebola Deeply: What help and support do people with disabilities in Sierra Leone need going forward?
Kamara: Suitable accommodation to get off the streets so they are less likely to catch the virus. Food and access to clean water is required, especially for those with young children. Most importantly, they need medical attention; ideally, a specific medical team for people with disabilities, as they are 10 times more vulnerable to the virus than others.
Khadi Mansaray is a contibributor to Ebola Deeply.
[Photo courtesy of Ebola Deeply]