UNICEF – DFID Partnership: Social Mobilization and Child Protection during Ebola outbreak

Market women join the fight against Ebola. They participate in Social Mobilization.
Market women join the fight against Ebola. They participate in Social Mobilization.

UNICEF received a grant of £ 500,000 ($ 825,000) from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to scale up Social Mobilization and Child Protection activities in the current Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed between UNICEF and DFID that spells out details of the grant’s disbursement plan.

“We are happy to support UNICEF’s Social Mobilization initiatives which form a critical part of the overall Ebola response effort. Ensuring affected children are reunified with families and provided with counselling and support is also vital. ”, said Mr Paul Wafer, Head of DFID Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Widespread misconceptions, myths and rumours have contributed significantly in fuelling the continuous spread of the Ebola outbreak in many communities in the country. Social Mobilization plays an important role in creating increased understanding and fostering positive changes in behaviors and attitudes in the fight against Ebola since a significant portion of the population are in dire need of information and education.

Child protection initiatives are reunifying stigmatized children with their families or finding alternative solutions, and providing them with psychosocial support to come to terms with the trauma of being separated from their parents, orphaned or unaccompanied.

“Information, Education and Communications are cost effective antidotes to contain the spread of the dreadful Ebola disease, going hand in hand with psychosocial support to meet affected people’s basic needs ”, said Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “Therefore, such a support from DfID could make a significant difference in changing negative perceptions and increase information flow through multiple media channels to people on observing the preventive measures to prevent the disease from further spreading”.

UNICEF is a member and supports activities in five of the pillar groups that have been set up under the Ebola Operations Center and National Ebola Taskforce. These include Coordination, Social Mobilization, Surveillance and Laboratory, Logistics and Child Protection/Social Protection pillars.

To date, UNICEF has facilitated the training of over 1,000 people (including social mobilizers, community workers, youths, market women, motorbike riders, etc.) as trainers to cascade the communication of preventive measures on Ebola to many communities across the country. A massive house-to-house sensitization campaign will commence in the coming weeks.

UNICEF has also conducted an assessment of children living in severely affected Ebola communities the results of which show that around 22 per cent of all infected cases are children. More than 100 children are either orphaned or previously infected with the disease and they encounter mounting challenges to get resettled in their communities after being discharged from treatment centres.

This grant will increase psychosocial support to children and create increased understanding on preventive measures to contain the spread of the disease.

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