Volunteers and staff with the Red Cross are working to strengthen the broken health care system in Sierra Leone, which was severely strained after the Ebola outbreak.
Both essential and basic health services were affected by the outbreak, and many of Sierra Leone’s health programs were paused during the Ebola epidemic, which started one year ago. The country has just now begun to restart its health programs.
One of the first programs being reintroduced is a mass measles immunization campaign. Beginning on Friday, Red Cross volunteers will travel from door to door to administer the vaccine to approximately 1.5 million children.
“Not only did hundreds of health care workers lose their lives to the disease, parents became frightened to take their children for regular vaccinations, believing they might become infected with Ebola,” Moulaye Camara, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Sierra Leone, said. “Consequently, a large number of young children have missed out on their measles vaccination and remain vulnerable should there be an outbreak.”
In addition to providing measles vaccines, the Red Cross workers will encourage parents to take their children to mobile health units being deployed by the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
“Red Cross volunteers are trusted and respected voices within their communities and can play a key role in regaining the confidence of parents in national immunization programs,” Camara said. “The Red Cross can play a vital role in ensuring community health programs are stronger than they were before Ebola. Our trained volunteers can rapidly deliver crucial and culturally sensitive health messages, enabling communities to make informed decisions about their health care. We must ensure that Red Cross volunteers are integrated into community health systems as they begin to recover.”