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The 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa killed thousands of people accross Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In response to the crisis, Age International and the Disasters Emergency Committee launched an appeal to stop the spread of Ebola. Discover how your donations have been used to help older people in Sierra Leone.

What happened?

  • Ebola is a highly infectious and deadly illness which spreads through bodily fluids
  • In 2014 an Ebola outbreak in West Africa killed 11,298 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone
  • Quarantines and curfews - imposed to stop the spread of the virus - destroyed thousands of businesses because people couldn't transport goods or get to market
  • If one person was infected, all of the household's belongings were destroyed, leaving whole families with nothing to their name

How Ebola affected older people

Pictured: 95-year-old Satu lost her great-grandchildren to Ebola

  • Older people became isolated - unable to reach hospitals, tend to their crops, or go to markets to buy food
  • Farmers, fishers and artisans found themselves particuarly badly hit by quarantine. The majority of these were older people, who were forced to beg to survive
  • As well as losing their jobs, many older people lost adult children to Ebola and had to take on the responsibility of caring for orphaned grandchildren
  • Because they could no longer provide for their families, older people felt useless, unrespected, and some even reported cases of abuse

How we helped: Age International's Ebola programme in Sierra Leone

Map of Sierra Leone in Africa

Where: Sierra Leone

When: November 2014 - March 2017

What: The programme ran in two stages. Stage 1 targeted awareness-raising activities at older people, in order to stop the spread of the virus. Stage 2 focused on re-building people's livelihoods, by helping older people to re-start small buisnesses and save money

Partners: Restless Development, HelpAge International

Stopping the spread of Ebola 

Because Ebola is transmitted relatively easily, education was key to stopping the spread.

  • Our trained volunteers travelled to remote communities to run special education programmes targeted at older people
  • We trained health teams so that they could care for and treat older people
  • Our emergency response reached 100,000 people in more than 1,000 communities in Sierra Leone

Rebuilding livelihoods

Once the disease was contained, we helped older people to re-build their lives by:

  • Training older people in business skills and helping them to find work suitable for their age
  • Investing in older people so they could restart their businesses
  • Starting Village Savings and Loans schemes, so whole communities could save together and use the profits to help support more people
  • Helping 1,700 older people to start businesses, earn a living and rebuild their lives

Meet the grandmother sending Ebola orphans to school

Useful reading


External evaluation report (June - August 2015)This an external evaluation of our phase one programme: 'Responding to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone through age-inclusing community-led action'.

Needs assessment (September - October 2015)This needs assessment provides an overview of older people's needs following the Ebola outbreak. It informed our phase two programme.

Lessons from an intergenerational livelihoods programme (July 2017) This report focuses on our phase two programme: ‘Rebuilding Sustainable Livelihoods’. It sets out how the programme was designed and operated, and concludes with recommendations for future programmes. 

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