UNDP, Red Cross to help reintegrate Ebola volunteers

Aug 14, 2015

UNDP and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have kick-started a 12 month project to reintegrate volunteer workers who have been on the front line fighting the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone.

The project will receive US$ 1.9 million, initially to help 800 first responders with vocational training and reintegrating them back into their communities. Many worked in the Safe and Dignified Burial Teams that were instrumental in halting the spread of Ebola but have since faced stigmatisation and endured huge psychological stress.

UNDP Country Director, Sudipto Mukerjee said this was a historic initiative for Ebola recovery in Sierra Leone.

“This is the first such agreement between the two organizations. Communities need to embrace these young people as heroes,” said Mr. Mukerjee.

He added that this is first Ebola recovery initiative that UNDP, IFRC and the Sierra Leone Red Cross will work in together. Reintegrating volunteers may signal the end stages of the epidemic but shows a joint commitment to continue working with communities that have been most affected.

There are still more than 2,300 active volunteers working in dangerous conditions to prevent the spread of the disease, many hailing from different backgrounds and regions in the country. As the Ebola response winds down and hazard pay draws to a close, many of them will be left without a job. Those of school age will find difficulties returning to normal life after the gruelling work and seeing the disease wreak havoc on their communities.

Moulaye Camara, the head of delegation for the IFRC in Sierra Leone, says the project will mainly target Kono and Kenema districts.

“This is a good starting point of a long-term partnership between IFRC, UNDP and the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society. It will benefit the Safe and Dignified Burial Teams and help us reintegrate them back in their communities after the good work they have done over the last year,” said Camara.

UNDP is the lead agency tasked by the UN Secretary-General to lead the crisis recovery work in the three hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. UNDP is working together with other agencies to get the number of Ebola cases down to zero, as well as helping the government of Sierra Leone develop a national recovery strategy. This aims to rebuild the livelihoods of those most affected and strengthen the government’s capacity to restore essential services.

IFRC has been coordinating the safe and dignified burials initiative since the Ebola Response Conference in Accra in October 2014. Through the Sierra Leone Red Cross and its network, they have recruited over 800 volunteers as part of the effort to control the spread of new infections. These volunteers are responsible for conducting approximately 50 percent of the safe and dignified burials in Sierra Leone under the emergency Ebola response.