With on-going efforts to mitigate the spread of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, UNV is strategically partnering with United Nations entities in the country to mobilize volunteers to assist and facilitate the process. In collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) and with the support of WFP Country Director Gon Myers, this was a unique opportunity for UNV to engage local youth volunteers.
WFP invited UNV to collaborate in a committee engaged in assessing the distribution of food items to communities affected by the Ebola virus. Committee members, which include the Deputy Minister of Youth, Ms Fereh Musu, Chairman of the Health Coalition for all, Mr Charles Mambo, UNV Programme Officer, Isaiah Akum, as well as the national UNV Peace and Development Advisor, Ms Saudatu Jah, started the monitoring exercise in Waterloo.
According to Gon Myers, “WFP plans to distribute food to 600,000 Ebola-affected persons by 2015 and youth volunteers need to play a pivotal role in this process”. Within the Waterloo community, a total of 37,961 people received food from WFP in partnership with the Community Integrated and Development Organization. A total of three hundred youth volunteers were mobilized for the food distribution exercise.
WFP will continue to provide food assistance to patients in Ebola treatment centres, survivors of Ebola discharged from medical centres and to communities with widespread and intense transmission, including the families of people infected with Ebola in treatment centres, deceased or recovering.
National UNV Peace and Development Advisor, Saudatu Jah noted a number of challenges during the monitoring exercise. These included, for example, non-registration of certain areas and households, some people feeling discriminated against due to the target categories of people for food distribution (i.e. pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, aged and people with disabilities). Furthermore, the late arrival of food items made completion of the exercise difficult since there were sixty distribution points in the community.
Saudatu says, “As UN Volunteers, we feel this is a wonderful opportunity to volunteer to promote peace and development, and respond to a crisis like Ebola. And we do this with pride and happiness.”
UNV is also in discussion with UNICEF regarding potential collaboration on volunteer support to its social mobilization pillar for the Ebola response. According to the Sierra Leone Ebola Emergency Situation Report, 415 social mobilization coordinators are needed at district and local level across the country. In addition, 22,800 volunteer social mobilizers are needed to ensure full coverage. UNV will support UNICEF in engaging and mobilization youth volunteers from within its networks in the districts.