An overview of the year 2014.
Everything went in a different way as we expected. The outbreak of Ebola has dominated more than half of the year 2014 and unfortunately the epidemic is still not over. Of course it had a great impact on all aspects of life in Sierra Leone, but also on the activities and projects of the FAD in the country.
The start of the year was good. With the assistance of Intermotive we were able to purchase a new vehicle in SL; so we could abandon the old car that became too expensive due to old age.
Our working visits in 2014 were limited to three trips in the first half of the year. Only three eye camps were implemented, but still we examined a total of 150 patients of whom 25 were referred for operation and 14 were selected for blind rehabilitation. In the month of July a total of 17 blind persons has been trained in moving without assistance. The rest of the year these people have undergone training and counselling for small scale gardening.
Besides this FAD was able to pay for cataract operations in 251 persons, thus restoring sight. FAD facilitated the assistance to Dr. John Mattia by eye specialist Dr. Pieter Slager during two weeks in April.
Eye care came rather to a standstill In the second half of the year. On one hand people feared to attend hospital because of the risk to attract Ebola, at the other hand nursing staff were short of materials and equipment to protect themselves. Beyond that many hospitals were closed down during three weeks after diagnosing a case of Ebola. This fact reduced the income of hospitals to zero and they were unable to pay wages and salaries to staff. On the request of some hospitals FAD came in to assist financially so that the staff could be hired for prevention campaigns against Ebola.
The Hospital at Songo finally got the urgently needed water supply , toilet and showers. Especially the construction of the water system was rather complicated but could be finalised just before the Ebola outbreak.
Fortunately the Agricultural project in Songo was not affected too much. The people involved were able to cultivate the 100 acres of land more and more independently and we foresee that (unless the project area is extended) they can be self-supporting by next year.
After many setbacks the Fishery Project at Mama Beach finally took off. In the meantime there has been a partial refund of the loan for the boat and the engine. During our next working visit we will discuss with the Elders how we can re-invest the revenues into the community
The education at the Technical School continued with two focusses:
- The training for tailoring. A part of the training centre has been renovated and the first batch of students made a start. Unfortunately the Ebola outbreak interfered seriously. During the middle of 2014 the project had to be cancelled: all schools were ordered to close down and the building was needed for the Ebola campaign.
- The training for welding: A simple shed as working place has been erected; the objective was to generate in income by combining training and production (“learning by doing”) in order to reimburse the invested funds. Unfortunately all commercial activities came to a standstill because of the Ebola, and this objective could not be realised.
For a group of 30 “polio families” in Grafton there was a good start of the year. Some undertook a small enterprise: a forgery, a soap production and a dying workshop for clothes (“gari ty die”). A tailor shop was already existing; FAD assisted these initiatives with initial funding. Originally the start was good and even a small profit was reserved for new initiatives. But again the Ebola interfered and there was no market for the products. A few of the families were forced to return to the streets as beggars. This was the reason for FAD to supply free rice to these people.
Also for the seven families of amputees (victims of war) the year had a good beginning. In discussions with them FAD explored the most urgent needs. In the town of Rokel they had started fully on their own with the construction of a simple school building. Building materials were mainly local sticks and clay but despite this the community was unable to finish the construction and to make it durable. FAD assisted with a contractor and now they have their own school in their own community.
On this moment all activities are in the scope of surviving the Ebola and return to normal life as much as possible. This counts for all Sierra Leoneans but here we want to mention our workers in the field: James, Daniel and Abdul Karim and their families. Despite the heavy burden on their shoulders they have been very active, both in our projects and in the Ebola Campaign as it was coordinated by the Government. In our project areas they have educated the people on Ebola and they have distributed materials for disinfection and prevention. They were keen observers for the FAD, so that FAD could assist people in serious need, for example with supplementary feeding.
As soon as the situation is more or less under control we will travel to Sierra Leone to revive our projects in case of stagnation and to initiate new activities.
We like to finish this report with a big “thank you” to the workers in the field!