GLOBAL children's charity Plan International is calling on families in Sierra Leone to be vigilant after the deadly Ebola virus claimed its first life in the West African state. It is the first confirmed case in Sierra Leone since the disease emerged in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia in March.
The victim was from the Kailahun district, in the north-east of the country. The virus has already killed 136 people in Guinea and six in Liberia, according to statistics released by the World Health Organisation last week.
"The Ebola virus has no cure or vaccination to prevent or treat. Therefore, staff and families must be more vigilant to ensure the disease is prevented," says Augustine Allieu, Plan's Country Director of Sierra Leone.
"Communities are constantly being informed about the nature of the disease, how to prevent it or to contain it where it breaks out in a community," he adds. Plan is a member of the national stakeholder task force and is working with partners to conduct surveillance of areas that could be at risk.
Factsheets are being distributed and awareness-raising sessions are being held in schools. Plan is also supporting information-led radio broadcasts.
"Plan is continuing to work with the government and national stakeholders to support its surveillance work and education, especially in border areas," says Mr Allieu.
"Given the cases already confirmed in Guinea and Liberia, the outbreak has the potential to become a sub-regional crisis warranting a multi-country response," he adds.
Plan has been working in Sierra Leone since 1976, helping children to access their rights to education, health, livelihood, sanitation and protection.
In Kailahun, where the first case has been confirmed, Plan is working in more than 450 communities, targeting thousands of children and their families.