An unprecedented outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in West Africa has spread to four countries with cases confirmed in Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone – International Medical Corps has been delivering humanitarian support in the region since 1999. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced more than 1,600 confirmed cases of EVD and 887 deaths, as of August 1. International Medical Corps is responding to the outbreak in Sierra Leone by providing critical community education and sensitization. In addition, the organization is deploying additional emergency response teams to Sierra Leone as well as to Liberia.
“This epidemic should not be seen solely as a West African issue but a global issue. Ebola is an international crisis that requires swift, international response,” said Rabih Torbay, Senior Vice President of International Operations for International Medical Corps. “There is a severe lack of resources for the Ebola humanitarian response, both for treatment and prevention.”
The government of Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency on July 31. A lack of information and education on EVD among vulnerable populations is leading to an increased risk of infected people not seeking critical health services to treat and prevent the spread of the disease. In response, International Medical Corps is providing house-to-house Ebola sensitization in vulnerable communities alongside the Kailahun District Health Management Team and other partners. The organization is also actively participating in Ebola task force meetings with the Ministry of Health and providing logistical support to the Ministry of Health for health education and awareness-raising activities. Local teams also are working to provide support with isolation of Ebola patients to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus, as well as assisting with surveillance measures. As part of its scale-up efforts, International Medical Corps is also looking to incorporate specific training for health care providers, traditional healers and burial teams as well as the provision of personal protective equipment. Staff on the ground continue to evaluate how to tailor the emergency response to best meet the needs of affected populations in Sierra Leone.
In response to the outbreak, most of Liberia’s borders were closed over the weekend to minimize the spread of the virus. International Medical Corps is preparing to deploy an emergency response team consisting of medical personnel as well as infectious disease and water, sanitation and hygiene experts. In addition, the organization is working with partners to preposition critical medical supplies including personal protective equipment and waste management tools.
The state of emergency declared by the Sierra Leone government on July 31, 2014 has the potential to change the operational context of the country and International Medical Corps staff continue to evaluate how to tailor our response in order to best meet the needs of affected populations.
In Nigeria, where ongoing violence has created large-scale displacement of vulnerable communities, two cases of EVD have now been confirmed with more cases suspected. In addition, malnutrition has been identified as a serious concern. International Medical Corps, which began operations in Nigeria in January 2014, is monitoring developing humanitarian needs and is prepared to mobilize staff and supplies as needed.
Ebola Virus Disease
EVD is a severe acute viral illness often characterized by the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. EVD spreads through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people. No vaccine for EVD is available and severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During this outbreak, EVD has killed approximately 55% of those infected. (WHO 2014)