Empowering Families in Post-Ebola Sierra Leone
Empowering Families in Post-Ebola Sierra Leone
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone—A year ago this month, Mamie Tenneh lost her son and daughter-in-law to the Ebola virus. But most tragically, Ms. Tenneh’s six grandchildren lost their parents.

“My son’s death left me heartbroken. I thought of his children. Their mother had died too. I am all they have now,” said Ms. Tenneh.

In March 2016, Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free. However, the country is still struggling with the effects of the two-year outbreak that killed over 3,900 people and orphaned thousands of children in the country.

Ms. Tenneh, for example, was forced into the role of caregiver for an additional six children—a role she wasn’t prepared for. The grandmother earned only $3 a day and sometimes went hungry just so her grandchildren could eat. She also couldn’t afford to send the children to school or take them to the doctor.

Near the end of 2015, Ms. Tenneh met with a group of social workers from SOS Children’s Villages Sierra Leone. Her family enrolled in the SOS Emergency Response Program, which supports Ebola-affected families so that they can provide a healthy lifestyle and education for their children.

Ms. Tenneh and her grandchildren were given food items including milk, sugar, rice, beans, and non-food items such as clothes, hand sanitizers, toothpaste and school bags, among others things.

“This helped a lot. My grandchildren were able to have three meals a day,” said Ms. Tenneh.

Recently, she was given a loanequivalent to about $80by the SOS program to help grow her small business. She now owns a stall at the local market in her community where she sells different food items and grains including sesame seeds, maize, groundnuts, black velvet tamarind and black-eyed peas.
Ms. Tenneh sells her goods at the local market in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She was able to grow her business with a small loan from SOS.

“I can provide enough food for my grandchildren now, and they are all going to school. SOS Children’s Villages came to my aid when I really needed help. I am so grateful to them for the support. They have made a big difference in my life,” said Ms. Tenneh.

Even before Ebola hit Sierra Leone, it was one of the world’s poorest countries. More than 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, according to the United Nations Development Program.

The Ebola epidemic hit the West African country at a time when its economy was still recovering from decades of economic decline and 11 years of armed conflict during a civil war that ended in 2002.