Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Sunday Times - A land shuts down to fight ebola

"WHEN Oliver Johnson, a British doctor, left home on Friday to drive to work in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, the normal buzz of street life was hushed.

A three-day nationwide lockdown — the government’s extraordinary experiment to combat the lethal ebola virus — had begun.

“The streets were deserted except for small groups of people in bright white T-shirts saying ‘ebola is real’ on them,” said Johnson.

Soldiers patrolled streets to ensure residents stayed indoors. Anyone moving around was escorted home under threat of arrest. Police set up checkpoints and allowed only official cars to pass..."

Read the full article on the Sunday Times website.

The Independent on Sunday - Ebola virus outbreak: A first-hand Liberian tragedy – 'We begged, take the baby to hospital... They refused'

"Princess Mayers sobs as she describes how Ebola has destroyed her life. The 17-year-old Liberian, whose story The Independent featured in May, had already suffered profoundly before the deadly virus struck the country.

Aged 14 and an orphan, she was forced to work as a prostitute to survive, and bore a child. A British charity called Street Child found her in the streets of West Point, one of the largest slums in the capital, Monrovia. It intervened and set Princess and her daughter on a path towards a brighter future. But because of the impact of Ebola, she is now struggling to go on. And her baby is dead.

The Ebola epidemic has claimed more than 2,600 lives across West Africa, with more than half of those deaths in Liberia. Last week, Barack Obama called the outbreak “a threat to global security”, and announced that he would send 3,000 US troops to affected regions.

Princess’s child Angie did not die of Ebola..."

Read the full story on the Independent website.

Princess and baby Angie in March 2014

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Children & Young People Now - Head teachers for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils

"Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children are among the lowest achieving at every level of education.

In April 2012, a cross-departmental ministerial working group published 28 commitments to tackling inequalities faced by GRT communities. Six focused on education. Among plans to improve low school attendance and prevent bullying was a Department for Education pilot to appoint virtual head teachers for GRT pupils inspired by the successful virtual school heads model for looked-after children.

The pilot set out to raise attainment levels among GRT pupils by addressing common barriers to education including tackling mistrust between parents and teachers created by historic persecution of GRT communities, and engaging parents who may not have completed formal education themselves and be unfamiliar with school systems..."

Read the full article on the CYP Now website.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

New Internationalist - Fighting Ebola on the frontline

"British doctor Oliver Johnson is fighting Ebola on the frontline in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. He leads a team of volunteer doctors and nurses from the Kings Sierra Leone Partnership at the country’s Connaught Hospital. They have been treating cases in an isolation unit since the outbreak emerged in March.

The virus is now present in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal. It has so far killed more than 1,550 people and infected more than 3,000. Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that cases could exceed 20,000 before the outbreak is halted. There is no known cure for Ebola.

In this interview, Oliver Johnson talks about the situation in Sierra Leone, and warns that without urgent international assistance Ebola threatens to undo all the reparations the country has achieved since the end of its decade-long civil war in 2002..."

Read the full interview on the New Internationalist website.

King's College has launched an emergency Ebola appeal.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Sunday Times - Liberia lifts Ebola slum siege

"CROWDS cheered and danced in the streets yesterday after Liberia, the country worst hit by west Africa’s ebola outbreak, lifted the quarantine on the slum of West Point, near the capital Monrovia.

Lewis Brown, the information minister, said the decision did not mean there was no ebola in the shanty town, which houses more than 50,000 people. But he said the authorities were confident that they could identify any new cases and that the community was co-operating with the fight against the disease.

The imposition of quarantine and a night-time curfew 10 days ago led to protests in which three boys were shot by security forces..."

Read the full article on the Sunday Times website.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Sunday Times - Violence and hunger stalk quarantined ebola slum

"WHEN Titus Nyman, 17, left his home in Liberia’s West Point slum to buy water for his grandmother, he feared being struck down by the deadly ebola virus rather than by gunfire.

"His homeland, together with neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, is at the centre of an epidemic that has already killed at least 1,400 people across west Africa, and slums such as this one on the edge of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, have been quarantined to stop the disease’s spread.

"On Wednesday, however, an angry mob had gathered to protest against the government’s decision to isolate the community of about 75,000 people. As Titus passed the military blockade, security forces opened fire. He and two other boys were left bleeding on the ground..."

Read the full article on the Sunday Times website

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Observer - Ebola crisis in Liberia brings rumours, hygiene lessons and hunger

"Another day has just broken in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. Outside a block of humble flats on Centre Street, two women in long overcoats jump out of a taxi, avoiding the torrents of rainwater pouring along the gutter as they carry a large plastic bucket. On the porch, a crowd of young homeless men take shelter. They are about to receive a lesson in handwashing, non-contact and recognising symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus. It has killed 249 of their countrymen so far since March, 961 worldwide, and prompted 1,779 reported cases internationally.

"The fact that Ebola is spread through bodily fluids such as sweat and saliva means that reducing physical contact has become a national obsession..."

Friday, 8 August 2014

Channel 5 News - reporting on Ebola from Liberia




While working in Monrovia, Liberia with youth development charity Y Care International I gave a skype interview to Channel 5 News to explain the Ebola situation on the ground.

Y Care International has launched a fundraising appeal to help spread awareness of Ebola. You can read more about the work its doing to combat the disease here.



The Independent - 'Ebola outbreak: Liberia - a country plagued by fear'

"Ebola is real. This is the slogan that permeates daily life in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. It blasts constantly from car radios. It is emblazoned on billboards and a giant banner hanging outside City Corporation HQ. It is printed on A4 paper taped above colourful plastic handwashing buckets outside shops. And it is on everyone’s lips.

"The haemorrhagic fever has so far claimed 255 lives and prompted 468 reported cases nationwide...

Read the article in full on the Independent website.

Friday, 13 June 2014

TES - Hope blooms in Sierra Leone's schools despite lack of support

I wrote this article for TES from Sierra Leone, after visiting schools in the remote northern chiefdom of Tambakha.

The schools were built by charity Street Child. Incredibly, before 2009 when the charity began working in the area, Tambakha had only three schools and two qualified teachers for 9,000 primary-aged children.

Building the schools and training teachers has been an incredible achievement, but the area is struggling to maintain the institutions without government backing.

I was amazed to see how hard locals were trying to support their children's education despite so many barriers. In some classes the children had no books or pencils - they were learning everything aurally.

This piece was written to coincide with a Street Child fundraising campaign. A film shot during my trip explains more about the charity's work in the area.

To read the full article, visit the TES website.

Watch the film at about Street Child's rural schools project.