Worldwide Hospice Palliative Care Alliance Ebola appeal for The Shepherd’s Hospice in Sierra Leone

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What is happening in Sierra Leone?

The situation in Sierra Leone is critical. Health centres are closed, stigma, myths and fear are rife and families are forced to care for the sick at home, fuelling the spread of the disease. 

Prevention messages call for washing of hands and other hygiene statements yet in many places there are no toilets or running water. 

Bodies are being left in homes for 3-4 days due to lack of burial teams. The burial teams that are in place are increasingly subject to violent attacks.

External support is now arriving through the UK government and non-governmental partners, yet support for local community based services, such as The Shepherds Hospice, is absolutely critical to address the Ebola crisis.

What are the hospice currently doing?

The Shepherd’s Hospice staff and over 500 volunteers had been working in affected communities, without the necessary training, protection or equipment. Despite the risks to their own health, they have continued their palliative and supportive care work and health education.

Gabriel Madiye, Executive Director of The Shepherds Hospice said:

“After the initial shock and fear of Ebola, we – the local health service providers – have realized that the answer to this epidemic now largely depends on our resolve. We at The Shepherd’s Hospice are now responding to Ebola after benefiting from training by WHO and other partners to develop competencies in Ebola care and infection control.

This project intends to reach 2550 patients with diagnosis and care; helping sick people reach health facilities. Families will be educated to prevent infection at home and patients will be provided supportive treatment at designated care centres manned by health workers and hospice volunteers.

This intervention is designed against the background that health facilities are currently held hostage to the Ebola epidemic; serving as holding centres for suspected Ebola cases. This state of occupation needs urgent attention to free up the health facilities.

Once alternative Ebola care facilities are provided, these health centres will re-open and resume normal primary care to patients such as pregnant women, lactating mothers, under-five children, elderly people, people living with HIV and TB and others.

All these vulnerable populations are currently unable to access health care. To overcome this challenge, our project is renovating school buildings to serve as temporary Community Ebola Care (CEC) centres.

These centres will serve as referral facilities for people who are providing care for sick persons at home. We are training volunteers to serve as contact tracers, visiting homes of sick persons and calling our ambulance service to carry the sick people to CEC centres.

Once at the centre, laboratory investigations will be done to exclude Ebola. For patients testing positive for Ebola, they will be immediately referred to Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) in Kerry Town or Hastings for the continuation of supportive care initiated at the CEC centre.

Patients with life-limiting illnesses other than Ebola will be followed up in the community with care.

Against this background, the Hospice is currently renovating school campuses in Waterloo and Kwama Village (Nr Newton), both in Rural Western Area district; Masiaka and Lokomassama, both in Port Loko district; and Moyamba Juntion, Tiama town, Sembehun Bagruwa, Mopala Timdale, all in Moyamba district.

This will help ensure that health facilities will cease to be used as holding centres; subsidized by CEC centres. CEC centres will be staffed by WHO Ebola trained nurses, volunteers and Ebola survivors; supported by Kings Health Partners.”

In addition, the hospice continues to run palliative care home services and is working to keep its palliative care staff safe as they do this work.

Why is it the hospice that is doing this work?

The Shepherd’s Hospice has been working in Freetown and other districts of Sierra Leone since 2005. They are well trusted in providing health care in the communities and are used to dealing with fear and stigma.

From 2007, they were funded by a DFID and Hospice UK project to take palliative care, health prevention and testing and treatment of HIV and TB into the districts. This project, now funded in part by the EU, has enabled them to gain  trust and reach into the communities.

In countries such as Sierra Leone where health systems are weak, the hospice and palliative care services must do a much broader range of activities than are traditionally seen as ‘hospice care’ in higher-income countries.

While their primary role remains caring for patients and families with life limiting illness towards the end of life, they are also heavily involved in community education and prevention, referrals for testing and treatment and community awareness campaigns. Often the hospice team in the community is the first point of contact.

Ebola is affecting the communities where they live and work. They must use their skills in care, support, bereavement and prevention messaging to join the effort to tackle Ebola. This is for the sake of their communities, their families and themselves.

What is the objective of the WHPCA Ebola Sierra Leone Hospice appeal?

The overarching objective is to raise £50,000 to support The Shepherd’s Hospice staff and volunteers to keep their communities, their families and themselves safe from Ebola while they provide community care and support to those affected by Ebola and other life-limiting conditions.

The Ebola crisis is a humanitarian emergency situation. For this reason, the WHPCA and The Shepherds Hospice have agreed set objectives towards which the funding will be used.

Your money will go towards:

  • preparing and running Community Ebola Care Centres
  • keeping communities, families and palliative care healthcare workers and volunteers safe
  • maintaining hospice and palliative care services for people living with life-limiting conditions during – and after – the crisis
  • working to prevent the spread of Ebola in communities through health prevention messaging and awareness
  • providing care, support and bereavement counselling to families and carers
  • coordinating the employment and training of burial teams for safe burial
  • providing a service, including transport, for safe referral to treatment centres.

What will your money pay for and how much money will get there?

As a humanitarian emergency, it is vital that hospice staff on the ground have the flexibility required to utilise funds for maximum impact at any one point in time, depending on the course of the crisis.

It is expected that 100% of your donations will go directly to support Gabriel and his team in Sierra Leone. The WHPCA – with our members, Hospice UK – have worked with Gabriel Madiye and The Shepherd’s Hospice for many years and have strong structures in place to ensure effective money management and monitoring.

It is hoped that 2550 people will be reached and staff and volunteers will be protected.

For more information, email Claire Morris on or call +44(0)20 7520 8250.

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