Since the first cases of Ebola were reported in West Africa, International Medical Corps has been working to help control the epidemic at its source and is one of a handful of international NGOs that is treating Ebola patients.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest, most deadly in history. There have been over 23,500 suspected, probable and confirmed Ebola cases in eight countries since the outbreak was declared one year ago in March 2014. The WHO reported a total of 99 new confirmed cases in the week of February 22. Transmission remains high in Sierra Leone and Guinea from unknown chains of transmission. Transmission remains at very low levels in Liberia with only 1 new case reported in the week of February 22. WHO reports the Ebola response still faces significant challenges.
Rebuilding Health Care Infrastructure
International Medical Corps is working to strengthen local non-Ebola health care capacity. Pregnant women are foregoing prenatal care and dying in childbirth. Preventable illnesses like malaria are going unchecked, causing needless deaths.
As one piece of our effort to help rebuild health care infrastructure in Sierra Leone, we have partnered with St. John’s of God Hospital in Lunsar to open a screening and referral unit (SRU). International Medical Corps provided reconstruction for the existing hospital facility and training for nearly 100 staff in preventing EVD transmission. Due to the success of the SRU triage process, St. John’s hospital has now reopened for out-patient services, in-patient maternity and pediatric care. International Medical Corps has opened SRUs at two Bong County hospitals in Liberia.
To expand the pool of health workers capable of managing and working in ETUs across the region, International Medical Corps is providing high-quality training for local staff, other partners, and NGOs in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where we have opened Ebola management training centers. International Medical Corps has developed a curriculum and a broad-based training strategy to meet critical staffing needs in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. (The UN Development Program in Liberia estimates that it needs 40,000 trained community healthcare workers in that country alone.)
Ebola Training Centers - We are providing training through a Multi-Agency Training Collaborative which is located adjacent to our Bong County treatment unit in Liberia. Physicians and nurses coming into direct contact with Ebola patients receive up to 12 days training, while other essential skilled technical staff, such as logisticians and water and sanitation engineers, receive 7 to10 days. Topics include management of an Ebola Treatment Unit; the use of personal protective equipment; safe patient transport; admission; triage; psychosocial support; quality assurance; infection control; case management for Ebola patients; and management of the dead. The training consists of three days of hands-on “cold” training and four days of “hot” training in the International Medical Corps - Bong ETU.
The Mali team is training government health workers, partner organization staff and International Medical Corps staff on providing safe and effective management of Ebola Virus cases. The Mali team is conducting in-country Training of Trainers in eight regions of Mali. Approximately 60 health workers will be trained. A training facility is currently under construction in Bamako, the capital city, and should be completed in March.
International Medical Corps will also open a similar training facility in Lunsar, Sierra Leone which includes a mock ETU onsite to better train local and international staff working in ETUs or Screening and Referral Units (SRUs) and ensure they receive additional “hot” training prior to working at centers and units across Sierra Leone.
International Medical Corps is operating four Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) in West Africa—two each in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We worked closely with WHO, the CDC, the responsible government authorities in both affected countries, the US and UK governments, donor agencies and partner organizations on the ETU design to make sure each meets all isolation, care and safety needs. The semi-permanent buildings include dressing rooms, morgue, burial site, decontamination, laundry, and treatment facilities. Safe transport to the unit is ensured by ambulance. The ETUs not only provide isolation and care for Ebola patients but also psychosocial support to patients, their support network, and those who have recovered from the disease. Most of the staff—about 90%—are local health care workers trained in Ebola treatment and prevention.
Liberia - On September 15, International Medical Corps opened a 70-bed Ebola Treatment Unit in Bong County, Liberia, four hours north of Monrovia. The U.S. Navy lab at nearby Cuttington University has cut the wait time for Ebola blood test results from several days to just hours, dramatically reducing exposure to the virus for those who are not infected. On November 22, International Medical Corps opened a second ETU in Margibi County, an area southwest of Bong with a population of close to 200,000.
Sierra Leone - On December 1, International Medical Corps opened an ETU in Lunsar, Port Loko District, which has among the highest rates of Ebola in the country. The facility, about 75 miles northeast of the capital, Freetown, has the ability to scale up to 60 beds for suspected and confirmed cases. The center includes staff accommodations and an onsite laboratory. The ETU is staffed by a mixture of international and national staff that were trained and equipped to work at the facility by International Medical Corps. Psychosocial counselors are providing counselling and care to admitted EVD patients and their families and working throughout the neighboring Ebola-effected communities. A second 50-bed treatment center, based on the same model as Lunsar, recently opened in hard-hit Makeni, the country's fourth largest city. That treatment center is about 110 miles northeast of Freetown. Both facilities have the capacity to expand to 100 beds if needed.
Mali - International Medical Corps deployed an Emergency Response Team to Mali in November. The team consists of a medical trainer and experts in water, sanitation and hygiene and logistics. International Medical Corps has proposed a short-term intervention to fill critical gaps in the Mali EVD response. Our program will include rapid response teams, which will be able to deploy on short notice. Our mental health and psychosocial staff will deploy with these teams to provide support to EVD patients’ families and increase their availability to social support and basic needs. The program is currently underway and staff who received exposure training are now training local health care workers on providing safe and effective management of Ebola Virus cases.
WHO reported eight cases including six deaths in the West African country. The Malian government followed-up with all 433 contacts linked to the outbreak and Mali has now been declared free of Ebola. Mali shares an 800 kilometer border with Guinea, where the first case of Ebola in the region was reported.
Guinea - International Medical Corps has deployed an Emergency Response Team to fight Ebola in Guinea. As of mid-February, WHO reported 3.108 cases in Guinea including 2,057 deaths.