Eddie David talks fondly about his grandmother. She sold smoked fish and from the profits she was able to clothe and feed the two of them, as well as pay the fees for Eddie to go to school.
That was two years ago.
Eddie was with his grandmother when she got sick, he took care of her until her illness became critical and the community called the ambulance. A few days later, Eddie started to feel unwell and he was taken to an 'Ebola treatment unit'.
When he returned to his community, after being certified free from Ebola, his neighbours were afraid to come close to him. They knew his grandmother had died from Ebola and as a survivor, they thought it was dangerous to be near him. It became so bad he was embarrassed to leave the house because of how people would treat him.
During this time Eddie struggled to get by. His grandmother was a kind lady so, even after she died, once in a while people would leave food at her door for Eddie. But that wasn’t enough.
With funding from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, Welthungerhilfe has been working with Action Against Hunger across Sierra Leone and Liberia to help families affected by Ebola recover the ability to feed themselves.
These families have all had their lives turned up-side-down by Ebola. Some people lost all their possessions when their items were burnt in an attempt to stop the virus spreading. Households suspected of being infected with Ebola were quarantined – one woman and her family were quarantined three different times, 63 days in total!
With so many deaths from Ebola, some families have been left without a source of income following the death of the breadwinner who supported the household financially. There are also families who have increased in number as people took in children who lost their parents due to the virus.
When we started our project in May 2015, people told us that times were hard; with savings spent and businesses gone, feeding their families was a daily struggle. To cope, they were reducing the number of meals they ate a day, or limiting the portion sizes for adults so children could eat more.
To address families’ immediate food concerns, in Liberia, Welthungerhilfe and Action Against Hunger gave 1 050 people in Bomi and Monsterrado counties 50 US dollars (around €46) every month for six months, through mobile money. Mobile money is a system with which people receive and manage money through their mobile phone.
Action Against Hunger is also supporting 450 people who lost their business during the Ebola crisis. Not only are we helping people financially but we are also giving people a chance to talk about the impact of Ebola and the changes to their lives through individual and group psycho-social interventions. These efforts are all part of the national recovery strategy to help families return to some sort of normalcy following the catastrophic effects of Ebola.
Eddie heard about the project through Alfred, one of Welthungerhilfe’s community mobilisers. Being part of this project has got him back on his feet.
“This money has put me back in school, and I am eating very well – everyday! Unlike before, I used to stay hungry always, thinking of where to get food to eat”.
The financial boost we have given families has prevented them from borrowing, begging or selling their belongings just to get by. It has stopped them from making difficult decisions on how to spend the little money they had. When we talk to communities now, we hear that their situation has greatly improved, people can not only buy enough food now but they are able to send their children to school and pay their rent. They are also saving and investing or re-investing in business and trade as a way to meet their daily needs as well as looking to the future.
Eddie has managed to save some of the money and with it he wants to buy tools and seeds. As an agriculture student, he plans to use the knowledge from his studies to start a backyard garden to grow vegetables which he will then sell to support himself through the rest of his degree.