In Sierra Leone, Humanity & Inclusion continues to run programs under the operating name "Handicap International."
Faced with the spread of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone beginning in spring of 2014, Handicap International arranged for the transportation of patients to screening and treatment centers. The organization also worked to ensure that awareness raising messages reached some of Sierra Leone's most vulnerable citizens. Handicap International launched its operations in the country in 1996 in aid of victims of the civil war, which began in 1991. Our goal has been to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities by promoting their social inclusion and access to quality care. Apart from three tumultuous years, during which the staff members were evacuated on several occasions, Handicap International has been present in the country without interruption since 2000 and currently employs 50 staff in the country and five expatriates.
Beginning in the spring of 2014, Sierra Leone was one of the countries most severely affected by the Ebola epidemic. The virus infected more than 13,000 people in Sierra Leone, of whom nearly 4,000 died. On November 7th, 2016 Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free.
Despite its extensive natural resources and huge potential for agricultural development, Sierra Leone remains one of the world’s poorest countries. More than half the population live in extreme poverty, and the Ebola epidemic further exacerbated this situation. The people of Sierra Leone are attempting to rebuild their country following the devastation of the civil war that raged from 1991 to 2000, leaving thousands of people maimed by the loss of limbs. The psychological suffering inflicted by such violence is still strikingly evident today.
EBOLA EMERGENCY RESPONSE
When the Ebola epidemic hit Sierra Leone, Handicap International opted to maintain its presence in the country, so that it could continue to provide its expertise in emergency humanitarian operations.
The organization managed a fleet of ambulances covering the entire Freetown region. These ambulances and their personnel applied a very strict decontamination protocol to prevent the virus from spreading. To protect other members of the household from contamination, teams equipped with spray guns accompanied the ambulances on each trip and disinfected the rooms where sick people stayed. At the height of the epidemic, more than 200 people were working on this project.
Since the end of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, Handicap International has shifted its attention to rehabilitation and support for Ebola survivors.
Since 2008 Handicap International has worked with teachers and the Ministry of Education to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools. Handicap International facilitates the training of teachers in pedagogical techniques that take into account difficulties faced by children with disabilities and helps the Ministry of Education develop specific modules adapted to Sierra Leone to create inclusive learning environments.
MOTHER AND CHILD HEALTH
Handicap International works to reduce mortality rates and increase early detection of disability by improving mothers and children's access to healthcare in Sierra Leone. Early detection can be an important step towards minimizing or even preventing the effects of disability on children.