As the Ebola death toll rises to almost 5,000 people and the virus continues to spread across West Africa, clowns are helping us reach thousands of people in Sierra Leone. Scroll through our photo story below to find out how.
ActionAid's cast of clowns arrive in Bo, Sierra Leone to deliver a serious message
Clowning is the latest tactic used by our aid workers to gain people's trust. Before this people were running away because they thought we were coming to arrest them or even inject them with Ebola. Mistrust and misinformation is one of the biggest challenges facing aid workers trying to contain the epidemic.
ActionAid's clowns perform a play about preventing Ebola
The high death rates associated with Ebola unfortunately cause fear and a lack of faith in the medical system. Our aid workers and performers are all local, trusted volunteers that people are more likely to listen to.
Children watch as ActionAid Ebola awareness clowns perform a dance
It's important that everyone in the community understands how to protect themselves from Ebola. Many children have died in what has become the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
ActionAid staff are also handing out posters and flyers explaining what Ebola symptoms look like and how to avoid contracting the virus
This woman and her family did not believe Ebola is real, but ActionAid volunteers helped her understand the symptoms and what to do if you have them. Ebola symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, red eyes, a raised rash, chest pain and cough, stomach pain, severe weight loss, bruising and bleeding, often from the eyes.
ActionAid staff take part in community radio shows to raise awareness about Ebola
Translating government and World Health Organisation (WHO) messages on how to protect yourself against Ebola into local languages, ensures everyone understands these lifesaving guidelines.
The clowns dance, act, perform comedy and spread a serious message
ActionAid aid workers in Sierra Leone tell us they are really making a difference to people's understanding of the virus.
ActionAid volunteers demonstrate how to protect themselves against Ebola
People are being taught to thoroughly cook meat, regularly clean and disinfect their homes and animal pens, wash their hands, wear appropriate clothing when tending the sick and dying and limit contact. In some areas we are told local people are now dropping the traditional handshake as well.
How to spread the word
One of the biggest challenges for aid workers trying to contain the virus on the ground is that many people cannot read newspapers and don’t have access to televisions or the internet, and sadly they don't trust information coming from official sources.
This means there's a lot of confusion about how Ebola is contracted, and the only way to get information to them is via word of mouth, through their communities or radio.
Local radio presenter Aliie Badara says: "In the beginning the people were running away from us. They thought we were going to vaccinate them with the Ebola virus. There were so many rumours."
ActionAid clowns making a huge difference
That’s why we’ve been using around 10 Ebola clowns across Kono and Bo districts to help overcome fears and bust Ebola myths.
Mohamed Fofana, ActionAid’s Head of Programmes in Kono and Bo, whose idea it was to bring in the clowns said: “The Ebola clowns have made a huge difference in breaking down fear and stigma, especially with children.”
The clowns have helped us reach almost 50,000 people in Sierra Leone, including over 12,000 children.
There are still thousands more people to reach though. We need your support to continue our life saving work.
Further reading on Ebola
- Ebola virus: the facts
- Eyewitness Ebola report from Sierra Leone
- Ebola's economic impact on Sierra Leone and Liberia
This blog was updated on 5 November 2014