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Jamie Clifford: Ebola epidemic hits cricket in Sierra Leone

Thursday 23rd October 2014

In November 2013, Kent County Cricket Club announced a new and slightly unusual partnership with Kent Cricket Club in Sierra Leone.
One year on, and a link to help develop the game and give hope to young people in a country coping with the impact of conflict has encountered an unexpected change of direction.
The Club hoped to give hope through their community cricket development programmes to those that had faced some huge challenges.
Since then the challenges have become even greater as the impact of Ebola on West Africa and Sierra Leone, which has been recently well reported, has been felt.
You may be unaware that all sport has been suspended because of the risk of spreading the disease (it can be transmitted by sweat). Cricket has therefore been stopped and the Cricket Club has not been able to continue its community activities.
However, yesterday I received an e-mail from Emmanuel Pessima, CEO of KCC Sierra Leone.
He was keen that we understood what is going on in Sierra Leone at the moment, and how in the face of some extraordinary challenges, the Cricket Club has redefined its purpose to act as a vehicle for education and communication in light of the threat that Ebola represents. It reminds us of the power of sport in communities and the value that it can have in helping pull people together.
We continue to be proud of our association with Kent Cricket Club Sierra Leone and will look for ways in which we can help them in their current situation.
I have today written to The Prime Minister, David Cameron, to highlight the work of Emmanuel and his Club and to encourage the British Government’s to increase further the already significant support being provided to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.
Below is a copy of Emmanuel's email to me.
Emmanuel Pessima, CEO ofKent Cricket Club, Sierra Leone, wrote:
“West Africa is experiencing the largest Ebola outbreak in history. The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone has created fear, panic and uncertainty occasioned by mis-information among the citizenry.
"This has necessitated the need for different stakeholders to provide resources for the free-flow of information and adequate enlightenment on the scourge to the people of Sierra Leone where more than 60% of the population are illiterate.
"The health system in Sierra Leone has been overwhelmed by the extent of this Ebola epidemic. Tragically, the death count continues to rise, including that of nurses and doctors.
"A wide range of resources are needed to tackle Ebola. This epidemic has disrupted life in many communities and cities. The implications and ripple effect of the crisis are being felt at multiple levels and causing untold suffering and hardship. Responding to this crisis requires a set of strategic and targeted actions.
"Many of the obstacles to containing this Ebola crisis are as much social as they are medical. Some Sierra Leoaneans prefer to place their trust in traditional healers rather than in medical doctors.
"It is also an African custom for family members to bath a corpse in preparation for burial. In the context of Ebola, this is an extremely dangerous practice. The virus is most virulent at the time of death and can be spread through physical contact with any bodily fluid.
"Our people are dying almost daily falling victim to the disease. The fight against Ebola is now beyond the scope of one country because the virus knows no boundaries, nationality and gender.
"Therefore no one knows where next the deadly virus could strike. Women, who make up a large part of the population in Sierra Leone are bearing the greater brunt of the disease.
"As a very important part of their families, communities and national development they are clearly the backbone of the informal economy. They are business savvy, strong and are always ready to do anything and everything to care for their families.
This means anything that adversely affects women would affect children, families, communities and eventually would adversely reflect on the national economy.
"Some 3,700 children in West Africa have lost one or both parents to Ebola, UNICEF has said. Children in Sierra Leone are deeply distressed and puzzled by the Ebola outbreak that has produced 313 children complete orphans since the outbreak in May this year, closed schools for children and seen sports discouraged to avoid contact.
"It would be an absolute outrage that in the face of these historic epidemic children would be dying of diseases that are very easily prevented such as measles and malaria.
"In response to this, the Kent Cricket Club, Sierra Leone, has constituted a Committee on Sensitization on Ebola Virus Disease to create awareness on the Ebola Virus in the community/environs as well as liaise/co-ordinate with other stakeholders within and outside the community to check the spread of the disease.
"The Committee would carry out its assignment diligently, and the sensitisation would also involve members of Kent Cricket Club (KCC), indigenes of host communities. The Committee has since commenced sensitization awareness campaign.
"Kent Cricket Club, Sierra Leone is actively working to educate communities on the truth of this crisis. Hand washing with soap is one of the messages that are been sending out as it is one of the cheapest, most effective ‘vaccines’ against Ebola. Radio programs, Posters, leaflets, and musical set are being used to engage both urban and rural populations on how this disease spreads and what can be done to contain it.
Kent Cricket Club, Sierra Leone office is actively involved in helping to contain this deadly outbreak of Ebola. And fortunately, none of Kent’s members have contracted the virus. However, containing this outbreak will not be easy. Stopping the spread of the Ebola virus requires multiple supports from international partners.”