By Mohamed T. Massaquoi
The Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES) has urged government and humanitarian organisations to prioritise issues affecting Ebola orphans in the country.
They made the call at a ceremony marking the presentation of educational materials worth Le10 million ($1,300) to Ebola Orphans. Money for the donated materials came from Harvard University.
SLAES, which has been in existence for the last two years, represents the interest of the over 4,000 people who survived the 2014/15 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone.
The organisation says it has on record 60 Ebola orphans in dire need of support. The donation caters for only 25 of these needy children, according to Dadi Hassan Kamara, who is the SLAES National Public Relations Officer and coordinator for its orphans programme.
The items included school bags, shoes, pens, pencils, and rulers. And each child got an additional cash amount of Le200, 000 to help pay for their school fees.
The beneficiaries are both primary and secondary pupils, and for each of them SLAES says it spent Le300, 000 to set up the back-to-school package.
Kamara told Politico that they’d received the funding from a Harvard student who was understudying the association.
"This is one of the silent areas of attention by the government which we believe as an association to assist," he added.
Kamara said that SLAES’ role wasn’t limited to advocating for Ebola survivors, but that it was also to seek the interest of other vulnerable groups like orphans, widows and widowers.
SLAES National President, Yusuf Kabba, said the idea of distributing the money in this manner was inspired by the desires of their colleagues who weren’t lucky enough to survive the disease.
"We are passionate about providing for these children as that was the message given to us by colleagues who were not able to make it up from the Ebola virus disease," he said at the presentation ceremony held at their headquarters in Jui.
Kabba said they would live to remember this message and work in accordance with it for as long as the association existed, adding that their focus was to educate the children because "without letting them acquire quality education, we would have deprived them of their future."
Kabba also pleaded to caregivers of Ebola orphans to treat the children with sincerity and to provide them protection so they would not feel the absence of their biological parents.
“Without creating the enabling environment for them there will be every tendency for an increase in the crime rate in the country," he said.
He called on community members to help protect Ebola orphans against teenage pregnancy, warning that the law was bound to take its course against anyone found wanting.
JSS 3 pupil, Kadiatu Kamara was happy after receiving her package.
“I am very much happy to receive the school materials," she told Politico, noting that SLAES had been of major help to her educational pursuit. She vowed to make the association’s support worthwhile by passing the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE).
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