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7/4/2015 - Sierra Leone - World Health Day: an interview with Br. Lothar Wagner, SDB

(ANS – Freetown) – On the occasion of the World Health Day (7th April) Brother Lothar Wagner, SDB, reminded of the young people in Sierra Leone who are suffering from the deaths of their parents, their own Ebola infection and from stigmatisation, too. A lot of the children and adolescents are in need of holistic aid. He criticises the lack of sufficient psycho-therapeutic aids. Health not only means the lack of disease and infirmity but also includes social well-being.

This, however, is particularly lacking in Sierra Leone at the moment and he asks the International Community to provide more adequate medium- and long-term support for kids and youngsters. “I hope that (…) we will not witness an impending failure in the psycho-therapeutic field. This would entail disastrous consequences for the reconstruction of Sierra Leone,” Brother Lothar says.

Here are some excerpts of his interview:

Do people still infect themselves with Ebola?

We have two to four new infections a day. This is clearly less than a few months ago. There is hope for a speedy end; we, the Salesians of Don Bosco in Sierra Leone, however, still see a long way to go until we have reached the end. We expect setbacks, also due to the fact that more then 20% of the new infections are not registered on any list but appear out of the blue. This is appalling after one year of Ebola.

What is the current health situation in the country?

The World Health Organisation states that health not only means the lack of diseases and infirmity, but rather stresses that the whole well-being is involved, also the social well-being. It is here that we have to realise that a lot of the children and adolescents have not overcome either the deaths of their parents, their own illness or the stigmatisation. And none who has experienced this great suffering on-site may be surprised.

What must be done?

In the way doctors and nurses diagnose illnesses and their severity in the medical field, we need psychologists, therapists and social workers in the socio-therapeutic field who can offer holistic aids to the traumatised children and adolescents. It is the young people who are expected to shape Sierra Leone’s reconstruction. It is they who have to be re-erected first. And little is happening on that score in my opinion. A lot of the young people are left to their own devices with their traumata.

Regardless of the numerous aid organisations on site?

Yes. Adequate psycho-social support is definitely lacking. To my mind, it is terrifying, how many organisations offer short-term material aids instead of providing medium- or long-term psycho-therapeutic services. But this is of vital importance for the child’s full health. (…)

What exactly do you mean by this?

(…) The focus, however, is largely on the medical field. As soon as a child is cured of Ebola it is generally regarded as fit and healthy. Generalisation is common without recognising that a lot of the children are everything but healthy. They are then sent to their extended families who are completely overburdened with the child’s situation. Some children end up on the streets and experience a renewed trauma. The Salesians of Don Bosco are currently accommodating 45 heavily traumatised children in their therapy centre. We require more home places countrywide. (…)

Published 7/04/2015

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