The recent Ebola outbreak, now considered the worst in history, is devastating the health systems in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Healthcare workers continue to leave hospitals due to weak infection control, lack of training and access to personal protective equipment. There are few isolation units and lab testing facilities for Ebola throughout the region. Also, those in need of primary healthcare are not seeking help in fear of contracting Ebola at a health facility or because those services are no longer available as many of the facilities have closed. Furthermore, there is significant concern regarding food security as people are not planting crops due to the outbreak and food shortages are expected.
International Medical Corps has been delivering humanitarian support in the region since 1999 and is responding to the current outbreak in Sierra Leone and Liberia. As of September 6, 3707 cases have been reported in the region including 1,848 deaths (CDC 2014).
“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.”
In response to the outbreak, Liberia shut down most of its borders with Sierra Leone and Guinea. The government is quarantining some communities, and a curfew has been established. International Medical Corps’ team in Liberia is particularly concerned about the recent rise in Ebola cases in urban areas, such as the capital Monrovia. There is a shortage of local clinical staffing, personal protective equipment, and basic health services. International Medical Corps is working with partners to establish an Ebola treatment center and send experienced health workers to support the facility in addition to sending personal protective equipment and medical supplies.
The government of Sierra Leone declared a state of emergency on July 31. A lack of information and education on Ebola 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 actively engaging with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and other key stakeholders. As part of its scale-up efforts, International Medical Corps is coordinating with partners to manage a treatment facility to care for the increasing caseload of Ebola patients. Our teams will continue to train healthcare workers in infection control standards and ensure they have sufficient resources to control the risk of infection when they are working with Ebola patients, while simultaneously teaching them to become their own best First Responders to this and future outbreaks.
In Nigeria, where ongoing violence has created large-scale displacement of vulnerable communities, 21 cases of EVD have now been confirmed including seven deaths. The World Health Organization reports the virus seems to be contained in Nigeria at the moment. 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. Treatment includes supportive care and no vaccine for EVD is commercially available. During this outbreak, EVD has killed approximately 55% of those infected. (WHO 2014)