By Yemisi Songo-Williams and Christina Ihle, CARE International in Sierra Leone
Koli Soko Village, Makeni, Bombali District
Marie, 75 years old, does not feel well. For the first time in her long life she is affected by cholera, but she knows the signs of the disease very well. Last week she was taking care of her 8 year old grandson Zechariah, helping him to survive the infection, fighting with him for his young life. Thanks to ORS treatment he is feeling better now and plays quietly in front of the house, as if nothing out of the ordinary has just happened to him. Although happy to see their child fully recovered, the family remains fearful for Maria’s life. Her body is not as strong as Zechariah’s, and she does not seem to have the strength to resist the water-borne disease.
42 people are already infected in the small village of Koli Soko, which is the home of about 2,000 people. Two people have already died; cholera can kill within hours when someone is not strong enough.
Koli Soko has a small health center which provides medical treatment and is managed by the government. But still the lack of proper drainage and waste disposal systems, coupled with heavy rains in the last few days, has caused flooding and put the entire community at risk. Maria’s son shows us their one and only water source: a small, still pond near the village; it is dirty and teeming with mosquitoes. “It is small, but deep”, he says. “But we are afraid, that this water is not safe anymore with so many ill people in the village”, he confesses. But this is their only option.
Maria’s neighbors are John and Yebefula, and their two children Sida, 5, and Moses, 10 months old. Yebefula was infected by cholera and was quarantined for 5 days with Moses. She is feeling better now, but she is afraid for her husband and the children. “I felt like dying in the last days; I just want to do anything to prevent my children from going through this illness.”
The CARE Sierra Leone team is distributing cholera prevention kits containing soap, ORS and purification tablets to the affected families and those at risk in Koli Soko. The team explains to every recipient family how to use the prevention kit, using pictures and demonstrations to make sure that everybody in the family understands that washing hands, using only boiled water and cooking food thoroughly is a matter of survival in these difficult times.
And families do understand. While the team prepares to leave Koli Soko, Yebefula gives her children a long and soapy evening bath using the soap she has just received. Hopefully they will be safe. But many families in Sierra Leone are still waiting to be better equipped in their fight against cholera. CARE in Sierra Leone is mobilizing all efforts to help with emergency aid and to seek long term solutions for villages in need.«All Stories and Blogs