Aid worker’s plea to locals to support Ebola appeal

Michelle Wilson, former Buckhaven High pupil, who has been working out in Sierra Leone dealing with the Ebola crisis
Michelle Wilson, former Buckhaven High pupil, who has been working out in Sierra Leone dealing with the Ebola crisis

An aid worker originally from Leven has called on local people to lend their support to the DEC apeeal to fight the Ebola crisis.

Michelle Wilson, who grew up in the town and attended Buckhaven High School before graduating from St Andrew’s University, has just returned from Sierra Leone where she was Concern Worldwide’s assistant country director for programmes for two years.

She said: “My initial role was to oversee the development programmes in education, health & food, income and markets in two key districts of Freetown and Tonkolili.

“When the crisis hit, it was my role to adjust the programmes in light of what was happening, because how can you have an education programme if the schools are closed?

“When it started in April, we weren’t yet concerned with treatment, but our unique selling point was our brilliant links with the local communities.”

Michelle (45) and her team worked with community health workers in rural areas to ensure they were informing people about Ebola and taking the correct steps when it was thought someone might be infected.

When the virus did eventually reach the districts they had been trying to keep it from, the team handed out basic materials to the hospitals and Concern Worldwide has now stepped up its work to take on the huge issue of the burying of the dead.

“A study showed that around 70 per cent of cases occur from the touching of dead bodies,” said Michelle. “So the management of the dead is criticial”

Michelle said the DEC appeal is majorly important in tackling two issues: the availability of treatment beds - “we’re probably going to be around 800 short by the end of the year” - and the management of holding centres which isolate and look after the people who might be infected.

“We also need more volunteers - the cost of someone being out there in the protective suits g for a day is astronomical, this is a high cost operation because of the mortality risk.”

Michelle is now back in London and helping to manage food programmes in light of projected food shortages, but she said it’s good to know you’ve made some difference.

“It’s a good feeling when you see one family being supported and the difference that can be made.”

The DEC appeal has now raised £8 million, thanks to £4m of match funding from the UK Government. To donate, go to www.dec.org.uk, call 0370 60 60 900 or text ‘Donate’ to 70000 to give £5. Please note your text is free but the money will appear on your bill.