Sierra Leone YMCA is increasing access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in six schools and providing psychosocial support and counselling to 800 school pupils. Photo: Lizz Harrison/YCI Sierra Leone YMCA is increasing access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in six schools and providing psychosocial support and counselling to 800 school pupils.

This time last year, the largest Ebola outbreak in history was devastating communities across West Africa. As governments and organisations from across the world met at the International Ebola Recovery Conference to plan the recovery of health and education services, we report on how Sierra Leone YMCA are doing both – by focusing on improving sanitation in schools to keep young people in education.

At the International Ebola Recovery Conference in New York last week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened by asking those present to focus attention on the “final stretch” of the response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and move from emergency response towards recovery which builds long-term improvements.

To reduce the risk of a reoccurrence of Ebola, Sierra Leone YMCA is increasing access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in six schools and providing psychosocial support and counselling to 800 school pupils so they can move on from the terrible memories that the outbreak has left them with.

Lizz Harrison, Y Care International’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Emergencies Advisor said: “I was in Sierra Leone last week with the YMCA when the weekly total of new Ebola cases rose. Ensuring that children and young people who have now returned to school have access to toilets and hand washing facilities is vital in the fight against Ebola. It’s such an important investment as it will not only help keep students safer, but also improve health and hygiene into the longer term.”

Schools in three districts severely impacted by the Ebola outbreak have been identified. Improving sanitation facilities at these schools is vital in the battle to get to zero cases. Continued vigilance is also essential, and young community members trained by the YMCA are supporting this in Kambia district, bordering Guinea.

As the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma said at the conference “sometimes, humanity shows a very short attention-span and wants to move on” and he emphasized: “No, no, no, this fight isn’t over.”

His words hold some weight, as just two months after neighbouring Liberia was declared Ebola free, there have been 11 new cases confirmed in the past week. As a follow-up to the International Conference, the African Union will hold an International Conference on Africa’s Fight against Ebola later this month in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Sign-up to Y Care International’s enewsletter below for more news and updates from YMCAs around the world.