FREETOWN (Sierra Leone), Feb 17 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has welcomed the announcements by the Sierra Leonean and Liberian governments that they plan to reopen schools, which were shut at the height of the Ebola epidemic in the two nations.

Schools in Liberia reopened Monday (Feb 16) while in Sierra Leone, schools are scheduled to re-open on March 20.

In a statement, the IRC, which helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future, however said effective measures must be in place to ensure the safety of both children, their teachers and their families.

It listed such measures as including access to safe water, hand washing stations and, most important, training and adequate protocols for Ebola suspected case referral and management in schools along with psychosocial support to students and teachers.

In Sierra Leone, the IRC said it would work with with teachers, school principals and management committees to support the government to ensure the safety of students and teachers upon their return to school.

In Liberia the committee said it is focused on some of the worst hit areas of Monrovia, where people are still contracting Ebola, and where the IRC is also supporting the reopening of Redemption hospital.

Working with the Liberian Ministry of Health, the IRC said it is training key focal points – teachers, principals and presidents of parent teacher associations in infection prevention and control measures. Each focal point will then go on to train others in their community.

The IRC has been at the forefront of the fight to combat the spread of Ebola in both Sierra Leone and Liberia since the outbreak began last March.

The statement quoted IRC President David Miliband as saying: “We are gaining ground in the fight against Ebola, but it remains a deadly challenge. Deadly for health workers but also for children who are desperate to get back to daily life.

”We can get the re-opening of schools right by ensuring that teachers have the training they need and that effective infection prevention and control measures are in place at all schools across the region before they re-open.”

Sierra Leone (10,934) and Liberia (8,881) are the worst hit by the disease that has also ravaged Guinea (3,044), killing a total of 9,177 mostly in the three West African nations.


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