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Plan staff blog on our work with children across the world.

Joining the fight against Ebola

Posted by Rino Sudibyo, Plan Procurement and Logistics Specialist |
Rino SudibyoWorking on the ground in a crisis that is still developing is beyond anyone’s imagination, blogs Rino Sudibyo, Plan Procurement and Logistics Specialist, who has arrived in Guinea to support the fight against Ebola.


17 October 2014: When I was asked if I would consider deployment to Guinea, I didn't accept quickly. While I was determined to join the Plan Guinea team, I had to think very carefully about it. My work as a procurement and logistics specialist involves direct interaction at the frontline of the response. What would this mean for me in terms of the risk of Ebola?

But this is an unprecedented emergency response. I knew I had to prepare myself much better than my many previous deployments. I quickly realised that there was nothing in my past experiences that I could 'copy and paste' for this deployment.

My preparation also involved something that I have never done before – preparing my family for the worst. I explained the possibility of getting infected and what this could mean. At the same time, I had to assure them that I would take all necessary prevention measures, and promise to come back healthy.

Hand washing and temperature checks

Rino Sudibyo hand washing in Guinea

Hand washing can help stop Ebola from spreading

When I first arrived in Conakry, Guinea's capital, it was hard to stay focused on the job. Here, I am constantly disinfecting my hands with sanitising gel or washing my hands with chlorine-mixed water.

I have to avoid shaking people's hands, and check my body temperature using a thermo gun every time I enter the office. And there are lots of other preventive measures that have been put in place by the office here too.

Around the city you can't miss the billboards, posters, banners and other media from the government and major humanitarian agencies conveying messages of Ebola prevention. Unfortunately, I can see on the streets that the messaging hasn't made a big difference.

I'm happily surprised to see how much Plan has prioritised staff care. I was provided with a hygiene and first aid kit as soon as I arrived. An all-staff meeting is held every Friday at the office, providing an update on the situation and on Plan's response work, as well as advice from the in-house health specialist on how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Distributing food and relief items

Rino being temperature checked for Ebola

Being temperature checked for Ebola with a thermo gun

Latex gloves, a face mask and rubber boots are a must-wear when we are distributing food or other relief items. Plan's t-shirt is soon becoming a long-sleeve shirt to minimise skin exposure too. These are just some of the new initiatives to better protect our staff on the frontline.

Distribution sites now include hand washing buckets with taps containing chlorine-mixed water. Queues are tightly monitored to avoid skin contact. We'll continue to develop new initiatives like this as long as we are working in the field.

Working on the ground in a crisis that is still developing is beyond anyone's imagination. Unlike a visible safety and security threat, Ebola is untraceable unless a person is infected. How do you fight something that you cannot see, cannot hear, cannot smell, cannot taste and cannot touch?

Keeping in touch with home

Thankfully, communication with my family is not a problem – the office has made sure that I can keep in touch easily. My family ask the same questions about the situation every day, and they are always happy to hear the same answer – that I am well and doing fine.

Nightly video chat during dinner time is a new ritual for us – while they are having dinner in the living room in Woking, UK, I join them from my hotel room. This gives a new meaning to the term dinner date!

I'm already thinking about what will happen when I return. I would like to be quarantined for 21 days in a medical facility, just to be on the safe side. It would be safer for my family at home, safer for my colleagues at the office, and safer for the general public.

So far I have taken all preventive measures and I feel healthy. But this crisis is one step ahead of us all – I can't be too careful.

Plan International is responding to the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Find out more and donate to the Ebola emergency appeal

Oct 17, 2014 12:40 PM

Preventing the Ebola outbreak from becoming a food crisis

Posted by Killen Otieno, Plan's Head of Food Assistance and Nutrition |

Killen OtienoThe Ebola health crisis could quickly turn into a food security crisis, blogs Plan’s Head of Food Assistance & Nutrition, Killen Otieno, on World Food Day.

16 October 2014: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are battling the deadliest Ebola epidemic in recorded history. The World Health Organization* (WHO) reports that 4,033 people have died so far, with 8,399 probable or suspected cases. However in reality, this number could be much higher due to unreported cases.

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) notes that cases in Liberia are doubling every 15–20 days while those in Sierra Leone are doubling every 30–40 days. CDC also estimates that Liberia and Sierra Leone could see 1.4 million cases of Ebola within 3 months when under-reported cases are taken into account.

Unless it is brought under control the epidemic has the potential to spread widely across the region and worldwide, putting many more lives at risk.

Emerging food crisis puts children most at risk

Woman carrying food aid in Ebola-affected Guinea

A woman carrying food aid distributed by Plan International and WFP in Ebola-affected Guinea

Many children who have lost their parents to the Ebola epidemic have been ostracised, abandoned in the streets, without shelter, food or medical care. As the stretched healthcare system concentrates on managing the outbreak, children are not treated even for the most common paediatric diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and malnutrition.

Household food insecurity in the 3 affected countries is waiting to emerge, with effects on the health and development of children. These could include iron deficiency, developmental effects, and behaviour problems – primarily aggression, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder. In the circumstances, these risks are under-assessed and therefore under prioritised.

As the world focuses on Ebola as a health crisis, the humanitarian community and the world at large needs to worry about the risks of infant mortality, low birth weights, stunting, and all the subsequent disadvantages of malnutrition. These may not manifest themselves immediately, but could have far-reaching effects.

Food assistance: Plan responds

Plan International, together with the UN World Food Programme (WFP), is ramping up operations in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, providing food assistance to around 1.3 million people.

Plan has just completed a rapid needs assessment that will inform key decisions around immediate, medium and long term food assistance intervention choices.

As we mark this year's World Food Day* on 16 October, we are reminded of how this health crisis could quickly turn into a food security crisis. The humanitarian community, governments and the world at large must do everything to prevent this and other health crises from transforming into serious food emergencies.

While donors and the international community have pledged to address the Ebola medical emergency, integrated interventions need to be designed and fast tracked, to minimise effects, to ensure that families can care for children and provide for their food needs.

Donors should also invest more resources in emergency food assistance and cash transfer programmes to prevent the long-term effects that lack of access to food may bring.

A food crisis could seriously complicate the delicate efforts of containing the Ebola outbreak – we must do everything we can to avoid it.

Please support Plan’s emergency Ebola appeal

Read more about Plan’s global emergency food and nutrition work

*Plan is not responsible for the content on external websites

Oct 16, 2014 02:55 AM

Children dying, and surviving, alone in Liberia

Posted by Henry Garneo, Plan youth blogger |

HenryNo children should die of hunger due to late responses to the Ebola outbreak – but they are, writes 18-year-old Henry Garneo – a Plan youth blogger and the chairman of Liberia’s National Children and Youth Advisory Board.

9 October 2014: Every day and night, I sit in my family’s little home in Paynesville, near Monrovia, and watch people from my community cry as their family members are taken away by the National Ebola Task Force to be cremated. They cry that they won’t see their family any more; they won’t even be able to talk about them at their graveside.

As those dead bodies are taken away, I wonder how life will be for their family and mostly, how will their children survive, as most of the victims of Ebola are usually the heads of families.

I start to shed tears as I watch those orphaned and semi-orphaned kids suffer from hunger. Other family members fear that those children too may have the virus, and they are left alone to fend for themselves. I try to help with some of the food items we have at home but most often it is far too little to sustain them for even a day.

One family’s tragedy

One situation that occurred in my community led to the death of an entire family that was very close to mine. They were a very peaceful and loving, happy Christian family until a great calamity befell their household.

On that fateful night on 19 September,  we listened to the intense cries of the 3-year-old son of Mr and Mrs Cheayan. For over 3 hours little Jimmy cried bitterly with excruciating pain.

My mom decided to go and check out what was going on. She knocked on the door for over 5 minutes but there was no answer, so she decided to call at the window and saw the dead bodies of Mr Cheayan and his wife with little Jimmy standing at their door, crying to enter in.

She screamed with tears and started to call for help. When the entire community was awake and aware of the situation, they decided to firstly call in the Ebola Task Force. The doors of the Cheayan’s house remained locked. It was agreed upon by the community that little Jimmy should remain in the house until the Task Force arrived.

5 days waiting

It took 5 days for the Task Force to respond to the call.

For 4 days the life of Jimmy was made miserable up till his death. He didn’t get to eat, sleep nor bathe. He was left in the house all by himself. No one was allowed to go to the house. In fact, the house was immediately chained by the community leadership the next morning after the incident occurred.

All day, all night, little Jimmy was in tears wanting the love and comfort of the arms of his parents. The entire community didn’t want to get involved with an Ebola-related case. It was agonising to watch the death of such a kid as you are helpless to save his life.

Children need more help

The death of little Jimmy hurts me a lot whenever I think that early referral to a medical centre by the Task Force would have saved his life.

People are now afraid and don’t know what to do when their family member falls ill. They were previously advised to call in the Task Force but they don’t know who to trust anymore.

Since the death of Jimmy, I along with other young people who work with Plan have been constantly engaging the media, calling on government to improve in their response strategy. We have been calling on them to meet the immediate needs of those children who have lost their parents due to Ebola by providing them with food and non-food items.

Resources are needed to put in place child-friendly care centres for children who lost their parents or who have been separated from them due to Ebola. Foster families who take care of orphaned children need to be provided with the necessary economic and psychosocial support.

There should be no children who die of hunger and starvation due to late responses to Ebola.

Plan emergency teams are responding to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Please support Plan's life-saving work – donate to the Ebola appeal

 

Oct 09, 2014 03:05 PM

Signs of hope in Guinea's Ebola epicentre

Posted by Gbaka Sandouno, Plan Guinea’s Gueckedou Programme Unit manager |
Gbaka Sandouno

Gbaka Sandouno, Plan Guinea's Gueckedou Programme Unit Manager

Ebola cases are starting to fall in Gueckedou, Guinea, as health messages make an impact, blogs Plan Programme Unit Manager, Gbaka Sandouno.

27 September 2014: The current situation in Gueckedou is not as alarming as it was 2 months ago. Out of the 49 Ebola confirmed patients presently at the treatment centre here, there are only 5 cases from Gueckedou, 39 from Macenta, 2 from Nzerekore, 2 from Kérouané and 1 from Beyla.

In Gueckedou, the cases are from 2 main communities – a few months ago  9 out of the 10 main communities  were severely affected by Ebola. We are grateful to say that the situation is subsiding.

Youth group power

In fact, even the main challenges we were facing, such as hostilities from villagers, and their doubts over the existence of the virus, have been solved. Religious leaders, women’s associations and youth groups got involved, and have all helped in raising awareness about the virus.

Now, people are scared of catching Ebola. The proof is that all the usual handshaking, marriage ceremonies, intensive market attendance and social gatherings - which used to be part of life here - are now considerably reduced.

Whoever gets ill now in any part of Gueckedou, rural or urban, is left alone until the specialised health worker comes to take him or her to the nearest health centre. The Ebola hotline number 115, on a green card, is given to everyone close by, as soon as such a case is noted.

Children affected

Hand washing, Guinea

Plan hand washing points are helping to reduce the spread of Ebola

On the streets, life is relatively normal, although economic activities have been reduced due to the closure of the borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the limitations on movement of people from one community to the other.

Stores, garages and offices are operating relatively well. Besides hawkers, marketeers and other traders, you also see traffic running normally.

But children are affected, either by being infected, losing parents or being traced as contacts. The fragile food security provoked by Ebola is also having a negative effect on children, as is the postponement of their school classes.

Recovering from Ebola

I attend meetings every morning with Ebola-cured patients. I have not met all of them, but I know that the recovered patients of Gueckedou - about 42 now - have formed an association. The president of the association, who was the first patient to recover from the virus, is called Mr Saa Sabas Temessadouno.

These recovered patients play such an important role in convincing those who did not believe in the existence of Ebola that it does exist. Of course, they also convince the majority who think Ebola has no cure that they can recover from it. They are living proof that people can survive from Ebola!

Radio campaigns

The group has been doing local radio campaigns telling how they were infected, then how they were taken to the Ebola treatment centre and have survived. Because of this, a lot of Ebola patients now declare themselves and are willing to be at the centre, and we are noting a considerable number of patients who are recovering.

At the beginning, I was very careful about meeting Ebola patients, and very worried about the outcome, but due to information and training obtained on what Ebola is and how to avoid it, I feel that Ebola can be contained. The threat can be won, especially if the population as a whole works together.

Steps are being taken to prevent people from catching the virus. Training sessions organised by religious people, community leaders, teachers and staff of various international non-governmental organisations on Ebola, as well as intensive awareness-raising carried out through local radio, civil society organisations, children and youth groups - are all helping people to avoid catching the disease.

Taps and washing facilities installed in every public and some private areas are also helping. Avoiding traditional practices relating to burials, social gatherings and social movement are helping as well.

Health messages are getting through

In Gueckedou as a whole, every village has been reached as part of awareness-raising work and messages are being passed on to people all the time.

Health workers are now working closely with local authorities and all are now welcomed by the villagers. Even the hygiene kits that were rejected a few months back by villagers are now being requested by the same people!

It’s worth mentioning that although this situation has improved here in Gueckedou, in other prefectures like Macenta and Nzerekore, it remains a huge challenge.

From giving institutional support to the health authorities to raising awareness through radio or civil society, Plan International is actively involved in anti-Ebola efforts.

We are providing hand washing facilities in public places and helping to trace contacts, and helping to provide the necessary funds to make things happen.

Please support Plan’s emergency Ebola appeal

Read more about Plan’s work in Guinea

 

Sep 27, 2014 10:05 AM

Girls CHARGE – tackling the issues that keep girls out of school

Posted by Sarah Hendriks, Plan’s Global Gender Advisor |

Sarah Hendriks 26 September 2014: This week in New York, Plan International announced its part in a groundbreaking effort spearheaded by The Clinton Global Foundation’s ‘No Ceilings’ Initiative and the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.

This concerted effort, entitled Girls CHARGE (Collaborative Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Global Education), brings together more than 20 organisations that are dedicating their expertise, resources and broad-based reach to ensure that millions of girls across the world are able to transition into and complete secondary education in the next 5 years.

Getting girls into secondary education

The focus of this initiative on secondary education is unique and an important departure from focusing solely on primary education. Understanding and supporting girls to make this transition from primary to secondary education lies at the heart of Plan’s global Because I am a Girl campaign.

We welcome therefore the leadership of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard on girls’ education, particularly highlighting the issues currently denying millions of adolescent girls around the world their right to an education.

Gender-based violence

For girls to go to and stay in school and reach their full potential, schools must offer both a safe learning environment and a rich learning experience. And this must span a minimum of 9 years, providing girls with a strong foundation from which they can transition into tertiary or higher education.

Yet one of the biggest and most intractable challenges girls face in school is gender-based violence. In fact, research shows that the levels of violence in schools, from peers and teachers, can be much higher than they are in wider society.

Schools are meant to be safe havens for children where they are supported and nurtured, where their minds are expanded and their passions ignited. And yet in many parts of the world, school can be a place to fear.

Supporting 150,000 girls in school

That is why Plan International has joined forces with the Clinton Global Initiative Girl CHARGE commitment. Over the next 5 years Plan will support 150,000 girls in 785 schools in South East Asia to create a learning environment free from school-related gender-based violence where girls and boys are free to learn and play.

The Promoting Equality and Safety in Schools programme aims to develop a zero tolerance approach in schools to all forms of violence and ensure these schools can become models of success that will be admired and eventually replicated by other countries in the region.

We know what is possible when the rights of girls are truly protected. This commitment raises the ambition of what we can do together to make that a reality for all girls.

Read the Girls CHARGE announcement on Plan USA's website

Join Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign

Sep 26, 2014 03:55 PM

Life after the lockdown in Sierra Leone

Posted by Kamanda, Plan Global Youth Advisory Panel member |

KamandaDays after Sierra Leone enforced a 3-day curfew to fight the Ebola outbreak, Kamanda - one of Plan’s global youth advisory members – reflects on the impact it’s had on people living in his community in the north of the country.

From 19 to 21 September in Sierra Leone, we had to stay inside our homes; to sit and pray with our families for relief from the Ebola outbreak.

Nobody could move from one street to the other, with the exception of the response officials, and volunteers and health personnel educating residents about how to stop this deadly pestilence from eating into the fabric of our dear and beloved developing country.

Imprisoned at home

You can’t imagine how difficult it is to sit and lie down in one place without moving from your house, street or community. This is really 3 days imprisonment but crucial in saving the lives of residents of this country from the agony of Ebola.

My family of 27 sat at home listening to radio programmes, ate food (though there was little), prayed, played cards and sometimes watched movies using the computer given to me by Plan. On the third day, health workers came to tell us about signs and symptoms, prevention and control of Ebola - and soap was given to us for frequent washing of hands.

In some villages, people took to their heels into the bush. Some of my family in their village - my mum, step-mums and brothers - ran into the bush because they were misinformed that health officials would come to inject them, put the Ebola virus in their blood, and take away sick people to mix them with Ebola infected people.

But when they called me on the mobile, I allayed their fears by explaining to them the essence of the 3 days and what is expected of them towards combating the pestilence.

Hunger and thirst

As a journalist of our local radio station, Radio Bankasoka, a colleague and I were assigned to monitor what happened over the 3 days in the district.

People adhered to the President of Sierra Leone’s declaration that they should stay at home. But many were not happy because they were not guaranteed food or water. Many poor families went through all 3 days hungry and thirsty.

Even in the absence of Ebola, affording a meal a day is difficult for poor, extended families, let alone for 3 consecutive days. Household heads that were suspected of having Ebola were held and quarantined.

The sharpest thing that pricks my heart now is that children, especially those whose parents are victims, are suffering with no support. For example, in Gbom Samba community, 3 children lost their parents. In other communities, you could see children lie down on the ground hopelessly as a result of hunger.

Hospitals are empty

Tears ran from my eyes when I heard the report from my local radio station about 35 people dying of Ebola within the district. What could happen in a month, a year? It’s really awful.

People have abandoned the health centres with the fear that they will be given the Ebola virus and perceived as Ebola victims. They have lost confidence in the local health personnel. Even pregnant women and mothers of children under-5 no longer visit health centres. The government hospitals and other health centres are empty.

As of now, 81 houses have been quarantined in my district but security measures for the quarantined homes and treatment and holding centres are not strong.

For example in Borrp community, only 1 military person and 1 police officer are securing 5 quarantined houses of 31 people. I witnessed this in one of the chiefdoms in my district, and interviewed the health officer in charge.

Food is scarce in quarantined homes and treatment centres. Suspected Ebola victims continue to escape from these homes or centres spreading the disease countrywide.

An Ebola victim who escaped from a detention centre yesterday night explained to my colleague, while eating biscuits hungrily: “Food is not given to me since I was put into that place and I’m hungry; I need food right now.”

No one dared to touch him. The authorities were called, but the victim took to his heels and went into hiding. This is risky.

What will happen next?

Many suspected cases and Ebola victims have been traced, held and quarantined. I’m hoping there will be an absolute decrease of this deadly pestilence within the next 21 days and give us some freedom.

But I expect more deaths in treatment and holding centres and quarantined homes because victims of Ebola and suspected cases get no or hardly any medical attention and little or no food.

Children and poor people will continue to die of hunger and Ebola because they are vulnerable at this point in time.

We need foreign technical experts on Ebola brought into the treatment and holding centres,as residents no longer have trust in the local health personnel and have abandoned the hospitals.

People like me can help. Youth groups should be supported to embark on campaigns through radio and social media for people, especially pregnant women and mothers of children under-5, to visit health centres again.

Young people and children see what is happening in a different way - we understand our rights and the responsibilities of duty bearers and are ready to hold them to account.

Support Plan’s emergency Ebola appeal

Read Kamanda’s blog in the run-up to the lockdown

Learn more about Kamanda and his role on Plan’s Global Youth Advisory panel

Sep 24, 2014 10:05 AM

Let’s help young people be heard

Posted by Emily Laurie, Plan Global Advocacy Manager |

23 September 2014: I am Scottish, but because I live in England, I did not get to vote in the recent referendum on independence for Scotland. But you know who did? Everyone over the age of 16 years who does live in Scotland.

Whatever their view, they were able to voice their opinion and they were listened to. However, giving young people a voice is not something that happens across the world and that is something Plan International is trying to change with our youth advocacy toolkit.

Since we launched the toolkit, it has been received better than we ever expected. It’s been so popular that children and young people want a new way to share it more broadly. To address this we have developed a short animated film, which covers the main lessons from the toolkit.

Up For School

On Monday, 22 September, young people held a rally in New York, supported by A World At School, while the world’s leaders were in the city for the United Nations General Assembly. They held the rally to call on leaders to provide quality education to all children around the world.

With 65 million girls still out of primary and lower secondary school, we need to work with the young people to put pressure on governments and see some serious change.

We are launching this film in solidarity with the rally and the broader youth movement for education. We want to help this grow in size and strength and as a result see millions more children going to school.

Join us in supporting them and share the film as widely as you can.

And join the young people by signing their new petition.

They are #UpForSchool - are you?

 

Sep 23, 2014 11:55 AM

Young people are key for post-2015

Posted by Amanda Lundy, Plan International Advocacy Officer |

Amanda LundyAs the world looks beyond the Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, our 1 billion young people have a key role to play, blogs Plan's Amanda Lundy.

22 September 2014: If you printed all of the reports, briefings, memos, key messages, responses, consultations, op-eds, haikus, and tweets that include the phrase ‘post-2015’, it would reach to the moon and back.

I’ll admit, even I am beginning to feel a little queasy at the phrase, and I’ve been contributing to this sustainable development post-2015 debate for years now. My fingers seem to be irrevocably programmed to type ‘-2015’ after ‘post’.

But for all of these pages and pages, there’s disproportionately little written on the ‘how’ questions around the post-2015 agenda. For every 10 papers on which goals, targets, or indicators should be included in the framework (and Plan has 7 great ones!), there only seems to be one that talks about means of implementation, monitoring, financing, or accountability.

This is beginning to shift as the work of the High-Level Political Forum, the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing, and the Independent Expert Advisory Group on Data Revolution for Sustainable Development all gain momentum.

1 billion young partners

Young people’s engagement in strengthening accountability for the post-2015 agenda report cover

Plan's new briefing paper argues that young people are critical partners in development

During this week's United Nations General Assembly, Plan International is launching the publication 'Young people's engagement in strengthening accountability for the post-2015 agenda'. The report follows this 'how' trend, but it looks at an often-overlooked area: the power of young people in holding governments to account for their commitments.

Co-authored by Plan and the Overseas Development Institute in collaboration with the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, this briefing paper argues that the world’s 1 billion young people aged 15-24 are critical partners in the quest for sustainable development over the next 15 years.

This is not only because of the size of the ‘youth bulge’ or because young people have a right to participate in decision-making that affects them; it’s also because their involvement in accountability mechanisms, such as social accountability processes laid out in the briefing, can lead to stronger development outcomes overall.

5 key principles

The paper argues that 5 principles are key for any post-2015 accountability processes to ensure young people’s involvement: meaningful participation and inclusive, accessible, collaborative, and responsive mechanisms.

It also argues that, due to the nature of international agreements like the post-2015 framework, accountability is largely absent at an international level; mechanisms, where they do exist, are non-binding, voluntary, and often do not facilitate meaningful inputs from civil society, including young people.

We state that a continuum of accountability for the post-2015 framework – from the local to the international – should be grounded at the local and national levels: in parliaments, school councils, and ombudspersons, where civil society’s engagement, and young people’s especially, can be most directly guaranteed and responded to. These should form the foundation of accountability for post-2015 commitments so that governments can respond to the needs and rights of their citizens, especially young people.

Better outcomes for all

One fifth of the world’s population are aged between 15-24 – they are at a critical point in their lives and the ability of the post-2015 framework to deliver on their needs and rights and to respond to their concerns is an indicator for success for the entire framework.

An inclusive, accessible, collaborative, and responsive continuum of accountability that ensures meaningful participation from young people at all levels can help to ensure a stronger framework with better outcomes for all.

Fundamentally, a post-2015 framework is about the future. Who could be a better partner – to help us define what we want and to hold us to those promises – than the young people who will have to live with the successes and failures?

Read Plan’s post-2015 briefing paper

Learn about Plan’s global child and youth participation work

Sep 22, 2014 01:30 PM

Feeling afraid in Ebola lockdown

KamandaAs Sierra Leone goes into national lockdown for 3 days to fight the Ebola outbreak, Kamanda – one of Plan’s global youth advisory members who lives in the north of the country, describes the impact on his family and community.

September 2014: The Ebola outbreak has overcome and killed a lot of people. Since it was first declared an emergency, many people have become victims, and there is still an increase in Ebola now.

Because it has become so prevalent, the president has decided to put in place a 3-day lockdown from 19 to 22 September to search for people who are sick.

They need to find all the people who are hidden, who have the disease, and the government will campaign to find the people who are sick. The trouble is that sick people have been refused entry by the hospitals, and now are resistant to being found. They are hiding because they prefer to be sick at home.

The campaigners will move through the city and through the villages and towns to find the people who are sick. There is only 1 district now out of 12 that doesn’t have the virus. Many individual houses have been quarantined, and people are not allowed to go out.

Poor struggling to find food

It is affecting everyone, but particularly the poor. We are having difficulty getting enough food, the schools are all shut down, and there are no classes and no lessons.

Some children whose parents have died from Ebola are facing obstacles - including food, shelter, clothing and emotional support.  Some people have abandoned the hospitals because they have been misinformed that if they are tested that their blood will be mixed with those who have the virus and they may be perceived as Ebola victims and isolated.

The poor and those who have been quarantined are suffering because food supplies are not getting through to them. Water is also not reaching them. Medical supplies are not reaching them. They also cannot afford to buy extra food for the lockdown.

27 people in my house

As we prepare for the lockdown, people are going to the banks to get their salaries, to try to stock up on food. But the trouble is that the poor people cannot do this. I come from a poor family, and I am staying with my uncle, who normally trades in Freetown, but he has had to stop.

People can die like this. People are wondering how to get food for 3 days, when they have no money up front; even those people who have money are struggling now because food is scarce and prices have shot up.

In my house there will be 27 people all in together for 3 days. I don’t know what we are going to do with our time, we will reflect and pray for this disease to be out of our country.

My uncle left this morning at 5am for Freetown to try to sort things out and get things adjusted for the 3 days. He will buy rice and other foods.

It is also very difficult for my people who live in the villages – I am really worried about my mum and dad because they have problems getting food. At the moment, they are staying a home; they have nowhere to buy food. My dad is sick – he has appendicitis – and we have no way of helping him. I’ve been trying to call them, but I can’t get through.

Frightening situation

At first there was a lot of misinformation about Ebola. There are also a lot of scare stories. People in the villages thought the people coming to give information were coming to infect them and kill them, so they ran away. Lots of people ran away.

Now, during the lockdown, we fear that a lot of people will try to escape, and this will make things worse. I am scared my father will go into hiding in the bush, and he is very sick.

I feel afraid. It’s a very frightening situation. Yes, I feel afraid about what will happen in Sierra Leone as a result of this virus.

Plan teams are fighting the Ebola outbreak across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Please donate to Plan’s emergency Ebola appeal

Read Plan’s press release on Ebola lockdown in Sierra Leone

Learn more about Kamanda and his role on Plan’s Global Youth Advisory panel

Sep 19, 2014 02:40 PM

How to talk to your kids about war

Posted by Sophie Shugg, Plan International Australia’s Senior Child Rights Specialist |

How to talk to your kids about war guide

As war and conflict continue to make headlines across the world, more and more children are being exposed to distressing scenes through the media. Talking about it can help minimise their stress, blogs Plan International Australia’s Senior Child Rights Specialist, Sophie Shugg.

26 August 2014: How do you talk with your kids when they ask you the tough questions about war and conflict? How can you minimise the stress and the confusion they feel when they see images and scenes they may be too young to understand?

Whether it's Gaza, Syria, Iraq or the Ukraine, young children are witnessing images and scenes that horrify even the most hardened war correspondent. And in the age of rolling news coverage and the internet, they can be potentially exposed to more and more than we ever experienced as children. And just to make these images and scenes all the more distressing and confusing for kids, they all too often feature children tragically caught up in war and conflicts they can never control.

Should you shield kids from the news?

Ultimately, it's your choice as a parent. But consider this: even if you were to throw away your TV, there's every chance your children will see these moments on other TVs, be it at a shopping centre, at their friends’ places or in a relative's home. And even if they don’t, they can still hear about war from their friends, or see photos on the front pages as they walk past the newsagent.

Create an environment in which children can speak freely

Children always need to feel safe, and never more so than when they are talking about events and issues that concern them. So find a time and a place where they feel comfortable and secure, in order to talk to them about their fears and concerns.

Let children guide the conversation

What worries your kids about scenes of war and conflict may surprise you. So let them take the lead in your conversation. This will ensure their concerns are addressed, and not just your assumptions.

Look for non-verbal signs

Children will not always raise their concerns with you directly. So look for the signs that they are feeling distressed. Do they turn away from the television when they fear the news is about to come on? Do they play act scenes of fighting or conflict with their friends? Do they draw pictures that reflect what they are seeing on TV? If so, you may need to bring up the subject and ease their worries.

Be as open as you can

No one expects you to explain the genesis of complex conflicts like a professor of politics, least of all your children. Nor do you need to go into excruciating detail on injury or death. But children are often smarter than you think, and they will gain a sense of comfort if you talk openly. And it’s OK to admit you don’t understand the reasons for war.

Reassure your children

Make sure your children understand that there is no threat of war or conflict where you are. But don’t dismiss their concerns for others – your children are learning empathy and compassion, and that’s to be encouraged.

Do something about it!

Children will often want to do more than just talk about conflict, they may want to take action. Let your children know that they can support communities, whether that’s through raising awareness or fundraising to help organisations responding to conflict.

Children across the world are caught up in conflict. You can help by making a donation to one of Plan's emeregncy appeals.

Download the How to talk to your kids about war guide from Plan International Australia's website.

Aug 26, 2014 12:10 PM
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