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- 11/06/15--09:59: _Sierra Leone: Tzu C...
- 11/06/15--14:30: _Sierra Leone: Tzu C...
- 11/06/15--15:07: _Sierra Leone: West ...
- 11/06/15--15:09: _Sierra Leone: Ongoi...
- 11/06/15--18:10: _Sierra Leone: The e...
- 11/06/15--19:03: _Sierra Leone: Ebola...
- 11/06/15--19:06: _Sierra Leone: WHO D...
- 11/06/15--19:15: _Sierra Leone: WHO t...
- 11/06/15--19:21: _Sierra Leone: Sierr...
- 11/06/15--20:36: _Sierra Leone: Ebola...
- 11/06/15--20:40: _Sierra Leone: Ebola...
- 11/07/15--00:49: _Guinea: Ebola: “Sci...
- 11/07/15--04:13: _Sierra Leone: State...
- 11/07/15--05:49: _Sierra Leone: Ebola...
- 11/07/15--05:57: _Burkina Faso: Ebola...
- 11/07/15--13:12: _Sierra Leone: Sierr...
- 11/08/15--03:06: _Sierra Leone: In Si...
- 11/08/15--05:23: _Sierra Leone: West ...
- 11/08/15--06:05: _Sierra Leone: Sierr...
- 11/08/15--06:12: _Sierra Leone: Sierr...
Liberia’s remaining USAID/OFDA- supported ETUs close
GoG reports one new case during the week of October 26
GoSL approves post-EVD transition plan
Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone continue to address EVD survivor need
- 11/06/15--18:10: Sierra Leone: The end of Ebola in Sierra Leone
- 11/06/15--19:15: Sierra Leone: WHO to declare end of Ebola in Sierra Leone
- 11/06/15--20:36: Sierra Leone: Ebola : Reaching and staying a resilient zero
- 11/06/15--20:40: Sierra Leone: Ebola : Le virus eradique en Sierra Leone
- 11/07/15--00:49: Guinea: Ebola: “Science should be at the service of survivors”
- 11/07/15--05:49: Sierra Leone: Ebola: The epidemic's timeline
- Epidemic starts in Guinea -
December 6, 2013: A two-year-old child dies in southern Guinea and is later identified as "patient zero". The virus remains localised until February 2014, when a careworker in a neighbouring province dies.
March 24, 2014: Authorities in Guinea and the WHO say that since January the country has recorded 87 suspected cases of viral haemorrhagic fever, including 61 deaths. Scientists studying samples in the French city of Lyon confirm it is Ebola.
Ebola begins to spread -
May 26, 2014: Sierra Leone confirms its first case, to be followed in late July by Nigeria, in August by Senegal and in October by Mali. Senegal and Nigeria are declared free of Ebola in October, while Mali is declared Ebola free in January 2015.
May 30, 2014: Ebola is "out of control", according to the aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF). The three worst-hit countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, declare measures including states of emergency and quarantines. Many neighbouring nations close their borders with the affected countries.
Ebola declared a "public health emergency" -
On August 8, 2014, The WHO declares Ebola a "public health emergency of international concern".
- Death in the US -
- A Liberian is hospitalised in the US state of Texas on September 30, the first Ebola infection diagnosed outside Africa, and dies on October 8.
- Ebola begins a halting retreat, Liberia declared free of outbreak - On February 22, 2015, Liberia says it is lifting nationwide curfews and re-opening borders, as the epidemic begins to retreat. In Guinea schools reopen on January 19, while Sierra Leone reopens schools on March 30.
- Surge in Guinea and Sierra Leone - The WHO says on May 20 that new cases have spiked higher in Guinea, and in Sierra Leone where officials berate people who flouted quarantine restrictions.
- More money pledged, closing in on an effective vaccine -
International donors pledge $3.4 billion in new funds on July 10 to help Ebola-hit countries stamp it out.
The WHO says on July 31 that an Ebola vaccine provided 100-percent protection in a field trial in Guinea, suggesting that the world is "on the verge of an effective Ebola vaccine."
Liberia ends second outbreak -
The WHO says on September 3 that Liberia has beaten its second outbreak, after discharging its last four Ebola patients and managing to go 42 days with no new infections.
Outbreak declared over in Sierra Leone -
November 7: Sierra Leone is declared free of the outbreak, six weeks after its last patient was recorded.
- 11/07/15--05:57: Burkina Faso: Ebola, une lutte de longue haleine
Des équipes de 20 volontaires Croix-Rouge par province sont formés à Ebola et diffusent les bonnes pratiques pour ne pas contracter le virus. En tout, ce sont 900 volontaires Croix-Rouge mobilisables immédiatement à la moindre détection d‘un cas suspect.
121 écoles ont bénéficié des campagnes de sensibilisation soit 37 266 élèves touchés.
Au niveau de la population, ce sont 13 305 personnes touchées par les campagnes de sensibilisation.
- 11/08/15--03:06: Sierra Leone: In Sierra Leone, preventing Ebola with a laugh
- Saturday, 7 November marked the 42 days in Sierra Leone since the last case of Ebola virus disease was registered. At double the incubation time, the 17 month epidemic was declared over by WHO. The president of Sierra Leone has ended the state of emergency declared during the outbreak, but the country will now enter a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to make sure the virus does not return.
- Thousands of people gathered overnight in the centre of Freetown, for a candlelit vigil to pay tribute to health workers who lost their lives.
- Ebola has killed more than 11 300 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea since the epidemic was announced in March 2014 and about 28 500 were infected, according to WHO data. Sierra Leone's death toll was 3 955 people.
- 11/08/15--06:12: Sierra Leone: Sierra Leone declared Ebola-free
When the West Africa Monsoon Rain poured in Sierra Leone on September 16, 2015, it left many people dead, thousands displaced, and hundreds of properties destroyed in the capital city and surrounding areas within hours, adding more pain and sorrow to the already Ebola-stricken nation. The thousands of Sierra Leoneans who lost lives, properties, and dignity on that somber day were some of the most vulnerable persons in that country. As a response to aid the people of Sierra Leone, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, through its local partners, distributed its engineered eco-blankets and women clothes to many displaced persons who sought shelter at the national stadium. The eco-blankets protected many displaced persons from cold, providing women and children just the warmth needed. Tzu Chi’s donated women clothes made it possible for many displaced women to change out of their wet clothes into clean, cozy shirts.
Seeing the images of children and women sobbing for much needed help, such as food, Tzu Chi sprang into action to feed hundreds of families. After consulting its local partners, Healey International Relief Foundation and Caritas Freetown, Tzu Chi developed a plan to provide 30,093 pounds (13,650 KG) of rice to the most vulnerable families in the community of Kroo Bay. Tzu Chi selected Kroo Bay to benefit from its compassionate relief because of the vulnerability of that community. Kroo Bay is located on the coastline in central Freetown, the nation’s capital city; a slum where an estimated 13,000 people live in chronic poverty, living miraculously one day at a time.
Kroo Bay lacks almost every basic necessity of life: high child malnutrition; 100% of population live below the poverty line; no running water; insufficient outdoor toilets; no waste management system; residents live on and around piles of garbage; high risk of several diseases; housing structures are makeshift homes; and living environment in general is not conducive. Moreover, Kroo Bay suffers every time it rains in the Western Area causing severe flooding in that community, affecting living spaces in homes; and increases risks of many deadly diseases, such as malaria, typhoid, and cholera.
The rice that Tzu Chi provided Kroo Bay residents benefited 273 families: lactating mothers and pregnant women and persons with disabilities as head of household and homes where women were the sole providers with at least six family members were the primary beneficiaries. In total, Tzu Chi provided 1,632 people sufficient rice for at least a month or longer. Even though the people of Kroo Bay and others who suffered great loss from the Monsson flooding need more support, Tzu Chi’s compassionate relief made a significant impact in the lives of many of the most vulnerable Sierra Leoneans in the Freetown area. Tzu Chi’s donations were received with tears of joy, smiles, dancing, and songs of gratitude. Beneficiaries expressed that Tzu Chi made it possible to prevent hunger pains from thousands of people, especially children, persons with disabilities, seniors and vulnerable women.
Sierra Leone may be categorized as an unlucky nation due to its past decade-long civil war, seasonal fatal disease outbreaks, Ebola, and now flooding, but Tzu Chi, through the wisdom of its founder Master Cheng Yen, sees that country differently. Tzu Chi believes that, through its commitment to that nation and collaborating with partners on the ground, Sierra Leone will rise out of the dust and emerge as a victor and a model country. Tzu Chi Foundation remains committed to providing needed support to alleviate hunger, eradicate poverty, and improve the lives of vulnerable Sierra Leoneans; and find smart solutions to mitigate and or adapt to climate change issues to avoid similar natural disasters.
As a follow up to its commitment to boost the Sierra Leone healthcare system, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation USA on October 28, 2015 packed a container with 342,000 latex examination gloves; 24,000 face masks; 7,140 containers of brown rice protein (17.9 ounces per container); 900 eco-blankets; and women clothes. Many volunteers around Southern California showed up in Arcadia and participated in another historic moment, joining hands to pack compassionate relief support for Sierra Leone health facilities and people. The event was full of celebratory moments, all of which were covered by several local media.
The donations came about as a result of an assessment that Tzu Chi conducted in Sierra Leone between July 13 and August 6, 2015. The most requested need by all visited hospitals and clinics was gloves. Gloves are critical for preventing patient to health worker cross infection and, hence, highly used around the world. But in Sierra Leone, as in many other least developed countries, there was no culture of wearing gloves for every patient contact until Ebola struck and availability of that consumable product was and still is scarce. When Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen learned about the problem, Tzu Chi USA was linked with Top Glove Medical USA to solicit donation. Top Glove USA, being a strong and committed partner of Tzu Chi, immediately responded to the call to help the people of Sierra Leone by donating 342,000 gloves. As a result, 342,000 health worker contacts of patients in Sierra Leone will be made with no or low risk of infection.
Tzu Chi’s contribution of latex examination gloves to health facilities in Sierra Leone will significantly support that nation in its efforts to achieve post-Ebola recovery goals, especially for infection prevention and control (IPC). When the appropriate medical gloves are not available to health workers in caring for patients with infectious diseases, be it Ebola or other contagious diseases found in Sierra Leone, it makes very difficult for health workers to provide compassionate care to the sick due to fear of getting infected. But the concern is not only limited to patient to health worker infections, it also includes health worker to patient infections and patient to patient infection through health workers. When health workers provide care without gloves, both patients and health workers are at risk of getting infected by carrier. Thus the reason Tzu Chi is shipping hundreds of thousands of latex examination gloves to Sierra Leone.
Tzu Chi received the brown rice protein donation from AIDP for patients admitted in hospitals and clinics across Sierra Leone. AIDP reported being happy to donate to Tzu Chi such important health nutrition, which will medically help patients’ recovery in Sierra Leone. Tzu Chi will distribute the protein powder to government and faith-based health facilities for patients’ consumption to reduce malnourishment and nutrition deficiency while hospitalized, especially women and children and other vulnerable populations. Approximately 207,060 servings will benefit medical patients in Sierra Leone hospitals and clinics. Tzu Chi will continue to seek the partnership of AIDP to fight undernourishment and malnutrition in Sierra Leone to reduce infant mortality rates, eradicate health recovery complications due to lack of needed nutrition, and build a healthier nation.
Tzu Chi Foundation will make another trip to Sierra Leone in December 2015 to continue its humanitarian mission and coordinate the distribution of all donations mentioned herein between December 2015 and January 2016. Beneficiaries of Tzu Chi’s December 2015 will include government and faith-based health facilities, Ebola female survivors and orphans, amputees, residents of Newton, and other vulnerable populations.
How the UK has helped to end Ebola in Sierra Leone and continues to help the country rebuild.
The Ebola outbreak is nearing its end in Sierra Leone. The country is set to be declared Ebola free on Saturday 7 November.
How the UK helped to end Ebola in Sierra Leone
The UK led the international response to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and has committed £427 million so far to ending the epidemic.
The UK is the largest bilateral donor to Sierra Leone and our swift action in response to this unprecedented Ebola epidemic has had a significant impact.
Our objective is to support the Government of Sierra Leone to end the current outbreak, and to maintain the vigilance and preparedness necessary to prevent any future outbreaks from growing into epidemics – maintaining a ‘resilient zero’.
Over 1,500 British military personnel deployed to Sierra Leone to help oversee the construction of six UK funded treatment centres from scratch and trained over 4,000 Sierra Leonean and international health care workers.
The UK deployed over 150 NHS volunteers who worked on the frontline to support over 1,500 treatment and isolation beds – more than half of all the beds available for Ebola patients in the country.
The UK set up a 36-bed mobile field hospital, which can be up and running anywhere in the country within 96 hours to treat an outbreak of Ebola, or other infectious diseases.
Over 100 Public Health England staff ran three new laboratories, testing over a third of all samples across the country, greatly speeding up the diagnosis of people with Ebola-like symptoms.
The UK delivered 2,800 tonnes of aid for the response - more than one million PPE suits and 200 vehicles, including ambulances, were supplied to Sierra Leone.
The UK also supported more than 140 burial teams to provide safe and dignified burials. Burying bodies is one of the most common ways the disease can be spread.
A Royal Navy support ship (RFA Argus) and three Merlin helicopters provided transport and logistic support for medical teams and aid experts working in the country.
A report from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that 56,600 Ebola cases were averted in Sierra Leone as a direct result of additional treatment beds.
The first £5 million of public donations to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal on the Ebola outbreak were matched by the UK.
Ongoing UK support to Sierra Leone
Post-Ebola, it is essential that we ensure the Sierra Leone has the capabilities, systems, and structures in place to respond to a future outbreak of Ebola or other public health emergency.
DFID co-funded early clinical trials of some of the possible vaccines, working with partners including the Wellcome Trust, Oxford University and the Medical Research Council, and is working closely with the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention to support trials in West Africa amongst at-risk groups.
The UK is supporting the Government of Sierra Leone in their work with survivors to reduce the potential risk of Ebola transmission. This includes:
•providing medical advice and counselling to help survivors cope with ongoing health problems
•providing guidance on avoiding sexual transmission and semen testing services to survivors
•exploring options for extending a trial Ebola vaccine to survivors’ partners and relatives
We will also support a longer term package of assistance for Ebola survivors, helping them to restore their livelihoods, ensuring they have access to healthcare and tackling the stigma they may face when reintegrating into their communities.
Helping the country recover
In parallel with the ongoing response, we are supporting Sierra Leone’s early recovery and transition from the Ebola crisis.
•UK support for early recovery in health is addressing the urgent needs of the health system for immunisation, essential drugs, improving protection control, water, sanitation and hygiene and district capacity-building.
•UK support for early recovery in education has allowed schools to reopen safely and catch up on lost time, and includes specific assistance for pregnant adolescent girls and disabled children.
•UK support for early recovery in social protection is providing support to those worst affected by the Ebola outbreak.
•UK support for early recovery in the private sector is helping promising medium-sized businesses in Sierra Leone escape the country’s current economic slump, restart growth and create jobs. Up to $50 million of short-term loans or overdrafts have been made available through Standard Chartered Bank and CDC – the UK’s Development Finance Institution – to businesses that are struggling to get the finance they need to grow. We are also providing $50m for debt relief through the IMF.
One year ago, the West African Ebola outbreak was generating so many new cases, had spread to so many countries that the world was terrified. Many feared that the Ebola virus was the pathogen that would overwhelm humanity.
Now, one year later that terror has been replaced by confidence that strong leadership, adaptation of the response to cultures and environments and innovation have turned the tide. Liberia has interrupted transmission and Sierra Leone is close to achieving that milestone. Guinea is still recording cases but in low numbers.
Here in the words of those who have been fighting Ebola are the impressions of what it was like a year ago and what the Ebola outbreak looks like now.
One year ago, the situation with Ebola was completely different. There were hundreds of cases of Ebola every single week. The most extraordinary thing that has happened is that by the 1st of December last year the curve was starting to bend because 70% of cases were being isolated, 70% of people who died from Ebola were being safely buried.
Over the months, I watched how the world responded. Basically the world turned from disbelief to concern, to action, to total involvement. The Ebola outbreak became the business of so many people. Within months, we saw the numbers of cases starting to decline, mostly because people themselves took over their destiny and owned the response.
Then, Ebola was everywhere. It was in the news, it covered the billboards, the ambulances, almost every minute howling sirens, the smell of chlorine, the PPEs. Now that the outbreak is almost over, it is a great relief to see life going back to normal. Then I wouldn't dare shake the hand of a friend but now, I will give them a hug.
In September last year, the number of cases was increasing exponentially. We didn’t have the resources or the capacities to catch up with the outbreak. Today, our staff are out in the field, day to day, pounding the turf, trying to find cases and find contacts. And I think that has played an important role in contributing to a more effective international response in support of the countries.
Then, it didn’t matter whether we were talking about senior experts or experts with less experience, fear was the common denominator. Now, one of the biggest things is that people know where to reach for information, for extra training, and they know what they are supposed to receive.
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
Keynote address at the Princeton – Fung Global Forum, Dublin, Ireland
2 November 2015
Honourable Mr President, faculty, and alumnae of Princeton University, distinguished speakers and panellists, representatives of UN and humanitarian agencies, noted journalists, ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to speak to this audience, and thank Princeton University and the generosity of William Fung, who is with us today, for making this event possible.
You are looking at experiences during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to explore shared features with past plagues but also to demonstrate several unique features of modern plagues.
Ebola is not a new disease. The first outbreaks, in what is now South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, date back to 1976. Prior to the current outbreak, Ebola was a rare disease, largely confined to rural areas isolated by lack of transportation by road, air, or water.
Much about the disease was poorly understood. The previous 22 outbreaks, which occurred in Ebola’s traditional geographical home in equatorial Africa, were controlled using measures, like isolation and quarantine, that date back to the Middle Ages.
We are now into the second year of the outbreak in West Africa, which is by far the largest, longest, most deadly, and most complex Ebola outbreak in history. Much research has been undertaken and knowledge of the disease, its patterns of transmission, and its clinical features, has improved considerably.
What WHO and all other responders failed to grasp quickly enough was the potential of Ebola to behave very differently in West Africa than it had in equatorial Africa.
In terms of lessons for future outbreaks, one overarching conclusion is this. Outbreaks of new and emerging diseases cannot be reliably predicted, but large, severe, and sustained outbreaks can be prevented through adequate vigilance, preparedness, and quick detection and response.
The watchword is this: be prepared for the unexpected. Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of the microbial world. There will always be surprises.
This was Ebola’s first appearance in West Africa. The disease was neither expected nor suspected. In Guinea, where the first case occurred in December 2013, the virus circulated undetected, off every radar screen, for three months. The earliest cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone were likewise missed.
This late detection gave the virus a momentous head-start, which further accelerated when the disease reached capital cities. National and international responders did not begin to catch up until October of last year. As studies now show, late detection and delayed intervention contributed to the outbreak’s size.
Ladies and gentlemen,
For vigilance, preparedness, and early response, the context of modern plagues is extremely important, especially in a century characterized by striking inequalities in wealth and fundamental state capacities.
This session is looking at the contribution of advances in information and communications technology. That technology played a decisive role in ending the 2003 outbreak of SARS, the first severe new disease of the 21st century.
SARS was very much a modern plague. It revolutionized our understanding of the power of real-time communications during an outbreak.
One set of statistics illustrates that power well. In mid-March 2003, WHO used the internet to alert the world to a deadly new disease, of unknown cause, that was spreading quickly in sophisticated urban hospitals. The message was widely reported by the world media, amplifying its reach.
The March alert provided a clear line of demarcation between the earliest outbreaks, in China, Hong Kong, Hanoi, Singapore, and Toronto, all of which were severe, and the 26 additional countries and territories where cases were imported by international air travellers.
Areas with outbreaks prior to the March alert accounted for 98% of the global total number of cases and 79% of total deaths. The additional sites, characterized by high levels of vigilance and preparedness, were able to prevent further transmission or limit it to just a handful of cases. WHO declared the outbreak over less than four months after the alert was issued.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa evolved within a very different context. Whereas SARS was largely a disease of sophisticated urban settings, Ebola took its heaviest toll on three of the poorest and least prepared countries on earth. All three were recovering from years of civil war and unrest that left health services and infrastructures severely damaged or destroyed.
Deep poverty, a disruptive political history, and centuries-old cultural beliefs and traditions created immense barriers to rapid containment.
Poverty meant that there was not enough of anything: doctors and nurses, isolation wards, hospital beds, laboratories, medical supplies, ambulances, daily provisions for people held in quarantine, or even protective gloves and body bags. Transportation and communication systems were primitive. In rural areas and also in some cities, real-time reporting of suspected cases and lab results was out of the question.
Many rural areas could not be reached by any form of communication, not even by mobile phone. Every day that symptomatic patients were left in the community, waiting for test results or transportation to a treatment centre, gave the virus multiple opportunities to spread.
The political history of conflict and unrest left populations deeply mistrustful of government authorities, their policies and advice, their military, and their public health systems. People preferred to seek care from traditional healers under conditions that virtually guaranteed explosive spread.
Foreign health care workers were even more deeply mistrusted, frequently to the point of violent resistance. In some countries, competing political factions used the outbreak to promote their own agendas.
In fact, cultural beliefs and practices proved to be one of the most difficult barriers to address. Responders took too long to learn how to break this barrier down.
In the beginning, many communities refused to believe Ebola was real. Rumours spread that all this “Ebola business” was just that: a business run by government officials to secure foreign funds to pad their personal fortunes.
To counter these and other rumours, health officials communicated the message that Ebola was indeed real. In fact, this was an extremely deadly disease with no vaccine, treatment, or cure.
That message backfired. If hospitals offered no hope, communities found it logical to care for infected loved ones in their homes, where they could die surrounded by familiar faces. Traditional cultural beliefs also dictated funeral and burial practices that involved washing, cleansing, and caressing of corpses that remain extremely infectious for several days after death.
Even after safe burial teams were organized and made quickly available, secret unsafe burials continued. WHO estimates that up to a quarter of all infections in the three countries could be linked to high-risk funeral and burial practices.
As we learned, communities must be helped to understand the importance of control measures on their own terms. Simply telling them to “do this” or “don’t do that” does not work. “Listen to the people” as one of the most important lessons learned.
When communities saw for themselves that hiding patients in homes could lead to the death of entire households, they found their own way to separate the healthy from the infected. They found their own way to identify and quarantine close contacts and keep symptomatic travellers from entering the village. These changes in community behaviours helped bring some of the earliest hotspots under control.
Could digital communication systems and internet networks have been used to solve some of these problems and bring about changes earlier? I have some doubts, given the realities on the ground during this crisis.
How can communications technologies help if the messages are not trusted or the content is inappropriate? As we learned, when technical interventions go against culture, culture will always win.
In recent years, several systems for digital disease detection have been developed, also in collaboration with WHO. These systems use dedicated software applications programmed to search open web sites, news wires, discussion groups, and blogs for words and phrases, in nine languages, that signal a possible outbreak or other health emergency.
In many cases, this electronic gathering of disease intelligence operates as an effective, real-time early warning system.
In West Africa, the effectiveness of these systems is blunted for two reasons. First, these countries simply do not have a modern telecommunications system. Health-related data that might be picked up by digital systems for disease detection are sparse.
This is a reality in poor countries worldwide. Some 85 countries, representing 60% of the world’s population, do not have reliable systems for collecting, recording, and analysing even the most basic health data. They do not register births and deaths, and do not investigate or record causes of death.
Second, most poor countries in tropical areas have a heavy burden of other infectious diseases, like malaria, Lassa fever, typhoid fever, yellow fever, cholera, and dengue, that have non-specific early symptoms similar to Ebola. In the midst of so much background noise, how can surveillance systems, which are almost universally weak, pick up an unusual disease event?
Elsewhere, experiences in countries with more robust IT systems in place show some positive results, and some negative consequences.
In July 2014, an air traveller from Liberia brought Ebola to Lagos, Nigeria, one of the most densely populated cites in sub-Saharan Africa. Lagos has large numbers of people crowded together in slums with little sanitation and vast daily population movements in and out of the city. Under these circumstances, many predicted a catastrophic urban outbreak.
That never happened. Nigerian health authorities caught the first case quickly and responded forcefully, with support from CDC, MSF, WHO, and the private sector. State-of-the-art technology, developed for the country’s polio eradication programme, was re-purposed to support the search for contacts of the first Ebola patient, the tracing of chains of transmission, and the real-time reporting of results.
Nigeria had excellent laboratory support and good isolation and quarantine facilities. Remarkably, the country was able to hold the number of Ebola cases to just 20. Equally remarkable, investigators could link every one of these cases to the chain of transmission that began with the Liberian air traveller.
In wealthy countries around the world, information technology, including social media, allowed fear to spread faster than the virus. This fear could not be contained by the well-documented facts that Ebola is not airborne and spreads only under conditions involving very close contact with infected bodily fluids. In reality, the risk of onward transmission following an imported case is very low in countries with high standards of living and well-developed health systems.
Despite these facts, numerous airlines cancelled flights to all of West Africa and some countries refused to issue visas for travellers from affected countries. The cancellation of flights made it extremely difficult to move badly needed personnel and supplies into the three countries.
Apart from impeding the speed of the international response, these measures isolated and stigmatized the three countries ever further.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I will leave you with these thoughts.
In my view, the first priority must be to get well-functioning health systems in place, especially in fragile or vulnerable countries. A well-functioning health system includes surveillance and laboratory services, but also offers comprehensive care, close to people’s homes.
Surveillance functions not just to detect outbreaks early, but also to detect chronic noncommunicable diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, early, when the chances of treatment are best and the costs are lowest. A well-functioning and inclusive health system builds trust in the government, but also contributes to social cohesion and stability.
It offers the kind of resilience needed to protect populations from sudden shocks, whether these come from a changing climate, natural disasters, or a runaway virus.
Freetown, Sierra Leone | AFP | Saturday 11/7/2015 - 02:51 GMT
by Rod Mac Johnson
The World Health Organization is set to announce Saturday that Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone has beaten an epidemic that killed almost 4,000 of its people and plunged the economy into recession.
The former British colony recorded around half of the cases in an outbreak that has infected 28,600 people across the three hardest-hit west African nations and claimed 11,300 lives since December 2013.
Experts agree that the real death toll is almost certainly significantly higher than the official data, which has been skewed by the under-reporting of deaths in many probable Ebola cases.
Save the Children sounded the alarm Friday over the long-term impact on 1.8 million children who missed nine months of school, pointing to a "significant spike in adolescent pregnancies".
The crisis took a devastating toll on primary health services and immunisation programmes, with the deaths of 221 medical staff -- five percent of frontline doctors and seven percent of nurses and midwives.
- 'No elaborate celebration' -
A country is considered free of human-to-human transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time.
After several false-starts, Sierra Leone's countdown finally began on September 25, three weeks after the WHO had declared neighbouring Liberia Ebola-free following 4,800 deaths there.
Guinea, where around 2,500 died, still has a handful of cases and Sierra Leone has announced heightened security and health screening at their shared border.
Guinea is also monitoring 382 possible contacts of known cases, 141 of them deemed "high risk", according to the WHO.
Palo Conteh, the head of Sierra Leone's Ebola response, has indicated that there are no plans for "an elaborate celebration" of the country's Ebola-free status.
The WHO is due to deliver a formal declaration in Freetown of the end of the epidemic while President Ernest Bai Koroma will address aid agencies, healthcare professionals and other key workers.
"Thank God it is all over and we now live in peace," said Mamie Kabia, 25, a member of one of the expert teams burying highly infectious bodies around the clock at the height of the crisis.
The epidemic was first reported in Sierra Leone 18 months ago, when a woman tested positive after contracting the virus at the funeral of a healer who had been treating Ebola patients on the Guinea border.
- 'I died several times' -
At the peak of the outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone and its neighbours were reporting hundreds of new cases a week, with social order on the brink of collapse.
Koroma drew criticism from the international community for a number of lock-downs confining millions to their homes -- measures that which were deemed punitive and self-defeating.
While the primary cost of the outbreak has been in human life, the crisis has also wiped out development gains in Sierra Leone, which was devastated by 11 years of civil war ending in 2002.
The World Bank estimates that Sierra Leone will lose at least $1.4 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015 as a result, leading to an "unprecedented" GDP contraction of more than 20 percent.
Across the country, Ebola workers recounted their own personal horror stories as they voiced relief ahead of Saturday's declaration.
James Hamilton, a cemetery worker who interred the first victim in the capital, told AFP he had personally overseen more than 600 such burials.
In Kambia district, close to the Guinea border, ambulance driver Ferenka Koroma said his worst experiences came when he was transporting bodies to burial sites.
"I hated the smell of chlorine. They say you only die once, but I died several times. But it is good it is now over," he told AFP.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Save the Children welcomes the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcement marking the end of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, but warns that the deadly epidemic has had a devastating long-term impact on vulnerable children.
The unprecedented outbreak in West Africa was the worst in recorded history with more than 11,313 deaths in total across West Africa, including 3,955 in Sierra Leone.
“It took relentless dedication to achieve an Ebola-free Sierra Leone and it is an enormous relief for the country, but it’s also important to keep in mind the 1.8 million children who were out of school for nine months and the direct adverse impact this has had on their welfare and safety,” says Isaac Ooko, country director at Save the Children in Sierra Leone.
“Due to blanket school closures and restricted movement around the country, there has been a significant spike in adolescent pregnancies for example, with thousands of young unaccompanied children who lost their parents or main care-givers to Ebola particularly at risk of abuse and exploitation.
“Traditional extended family support networks continue to deteriorate due to lingering fear and discrimination, leaving many children trying to cope on their own, and the rapid deterioration in household and community incomes in a country still reeling from 11 years of brutal civil war has only compounded the situation, with many families unable to support young relatives with even basic food and shelter,” he adds.
Although schools have now been reopened, significant efforts are needed to help children catch up with their school curriculums and boost the near-paralysed education system. The loss of five per cent of frontline doctors and seven per cent of nurses and midwives has also severely undermined already-stretched health services.
“Children's access to basic health care has been severely disrupted, including the implementation of routine immunisation programs against common but deadly childhood diseases such as measles and chickenpox, life-saving malaria treatment, HIV medications, and pre and post-natal care’” says Natasha Quist, Regional Director of Save the Children in West and Central Africa.
“Of course, there is a risk that Ebola has become endemic within communities and there will always be the threat of further outbreaks that will need a rapid and effective response.
“We call on the international community to assist governments to invest in rebuilding health and education systems in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea so that children and women can again access these services that are indispensable to their survival,” she adds.
Save the Children is helping to rehabilitate communities, health, and education systems, including the roll-out of a catch-up curriculum in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, as well as building libraries in deprived communities, supplying books, schoolbags and pens to children, and training teachers to identify signs of trauma in their students.
The agency is also supporting the Government of Sierra Leone to ensure that measures for infection prevention and control remain in place throughout their imposed 90 days of vigilance to ensure the country is completely free from new outbreaks.
For more information, images or interviews, please contact Kathleen Prior in Freetown, Sierra Leone on email@example.com or call +232 797 67580 (Sierra Leone) or +44 7788 304 565 (UK) or Skype kpriorsaveuk
The outbreak in Sierra Leone started in May 2014, and as at 4th November 2015, according to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the country recorded a cumulative (laboratory confirmed) infected cases of 8,704, confirmed deaths of 3,589 (of which 221 are healthcare workers),and 4,051 survivors.
According to the WHO, a country will be declared Ebola-free 42 days after the last confirmed case has tested negative or has deceased. Sierra Leone started its new countdown on Saturday 26th September, after discharging its last two known patients from the Treatment Center in Kambia District. The country is to complete its 42 days of ‘0 cases’ period by midnight Friday, 6th November 2015. All actors in the country and across the world are anticipating that on Saturday, 7th November 2015, Sierra Leone will be declared free of Ebola, which will also initiate a 90-day period of heightened vigilance to prevent reoccurrence of the infection in the country.
ACF has been in Sierra Leone since 1991 supporting the national authorities in the fight against hunger in the Moyamba, Kambia and western rural and urban districts (which happened to be high transmission areas during the outbreak), through its nutrition, health, food security and livelihoods, water sanitation and hygiene programmes of intervention. ACF has been involved in robust social mobilization by training and giving support to case investigators and contact tracers; has been providing water, sanitation and hygiene structures for quarantined homes, communities and health facilities; has been, providing trainings for healthcare workers on infection prevention and control; has been giving nutrition, psychosocial and livelihood support to survivors and has also been distributing reunification kits to survivors and people loosing family member(s) to Ebola. ACF has been actively involved in promoting good hygiene practices (especially hand washing) in communities as major tools in the fight to tackle the disease in the country.
As we approach this historic day , ACF Sierra Leone is calling on all to be vigilant, not be complacent and still maintain a system of heightened surveillance and good hygiene practices as we get to and stay a resilient zero.
Après 42 jours sans qu’aucun nouveau cas d’Ebola n’ait été signalé en Sierra Leone le pays s’apprête à être officiellement déclaré « Ebola free». Action contre la Faim (ACF), présente auprès des Sierra Léonais depuis plus de 20 ans et durant toute l’épidémie, se réjouit de l’éradication du virus dans le pays. A la veille de cette journée historique, l’organisation appelle également à rester vigilant et à maintenir un système de surveillance accrue et de bonnes pratiques d’hygiène pour éviter d’éventuelles rechutes.
Depuis le samedi 26 Septembre, alors que les 2 derniers patients connus quittaient le Centre de traitement du district de Kambia, la Sierra Leone a commencé le décompte des 42 jours consécutifs sans nouveau cas avéré (soit deux fois la période d’incubation). Le samedi 7 Novembre 2015 au matin, le virus Ebola sera donc officiellement éradiqué du pays et une période de 90 jours d'une vigilance accrue débutera pour prévenir une réapparition du virus. Selon le ministère de la Santé et de l'Assainissement, le pays a enregistré 8704 cas confirmés, 3589 décès (dont 221 sont des personnels de santé) et 4051 survivants depuis mai 2014.
A la veille de cette journée historique, l’organisation appelle à rester vigilant, à maintenir un système de surveillance accrue et de bonnes pratiques d’hygiène pour éviter d’éventuelles rechutes. En effet, le caractère endémique du virus fait craindre de potentielles rechutes dans les mois et années à venir. La crise d’Ebola en Afrique de l’Ouest a mis en évidence l’importance de la mobilisation communautaire, qui permet une meilleure compréhension et perception des enjeux liés au virus. Si le traitement médical des patients est essentiel pour soulager leurs symptômes et augmenter leurs chances de survie, l’implication des communautés à une place prépondérante dans le contrôle de l’épidémie.
L’approche CLEME1 (Community Led Ebola Management Eradication), mise en place par Action contre la Faim notamment dans le district de Moyamba, a permis aux communautés de participer au contrôle de l’épidémie, en identifiant les comportements à risque et ceux qui permettent la réduction des risques de transmission. Les volontaires, issus des communautés, sont responsables de la mise en place et du respect des mesures d’hygiène. « Cette approche pourrait représenter un modèle dans la lutte contre Ebola car elle permet aux communautés de trouver des solutions en accord avec leurs besoins individuels et leur culture » souligne James Senesie, responsable des programmes Eau, Hygiène et Assainissement d’ACF.
ACF était présente en Sierra Leone depuis 1991, soutenant les efforts des autorités nationales dans la lutte contre la sous-nutrition dans la région de Moyamba, Kambia et dans les districts ruraux et urbains de l'Ouest (qui se trouvaient être des zones de transmission élevées durant l'épidémie). Pour répondre à l’épidémie les équipes ont formé des enquêteurs et des personnels de santé sur la prévention et le contrôle de l’infection. Elles ont fourni des structures d'eau, d'assainissement et d'hygiène aux foyers en quarantaine et aux établissements de santé, elles ont apporté un soutien psychosocial et des moyens de subsistance aux survivants et aux familles des victimes d’Ebola. Aujourd’hui l'amélioration de l'accès à l'eau et l'assainissement ainsi que celle des pratiques d'hygiène se poursuit dans les centres de santé. ACF renforce également la surveillance communautaire à la frontière guinéenne, une zone à fragile déjà touchée par des épidémies successives de choléra, pour éviter les cas de transmissions transfrontalières.
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The Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone was declared over on 7 November, but in neighbouring Guinea, people are still being infected by a disease which has claimed more than 11,000 lives in West Africa. But despite the unprecedented scale of the epidemic, there is still much that we do not know about Ebola. How long does the virus survive? Could Ebola become endemic in the region? What medical challenges do survivors face? MSF public health specialist Dr Armand Sprecher provides some answers.
Why is Ebola still a danger in West Africa?
The Ebola outbreak has been declared over in Sierra Leone, but there are still new cases in Guinea. Three new patients have been admitted to MSF’s Ebola management centre in the capital, Conakry, in the past week, and a baby was born with the disease – and is still alive. Two of our patients belong to a known chain of transmission linked to a community death in Forecariah, but one comes from a transmission chain unknown so far.
Today, the main risk is the weak monitoring system. There are an estimated 233 people in Guinea who have come into contact with an Ebola patient but who are not being followed. It might be that a patient took a shared taxi, but the health authorities have been unable to find the taxi driver or the other passengers in the car.
This is why it is so difficult to stop the epidemic. The outbreak may be over in Sierra Leone, but as long as Ebola is still present in Guinea, the disease will stay on its neighbour’s doorstep and there will be a risk of new cases. Vigilance and the capacity to respond quickly to potential new cases will have to be maintained in the region.
Could Ebola become endemic in West Africa?
There are two possible routes to a disease like Ebola becoming endemic. First, there could be a lot of ‘late cases’, with people infected through sexual transmission – but we haven’t seen that happen. Most of the male survivors of a sexually active age had the disease a year ago. So if sexual transmission happened to a significant extent, we would have seen many more cases.
Secondly, the virus would have to adapt well to its new host. Viruses that have successfully emerged from their animal reservoir to become endemic in humans – such as HIV and measles – have often come from animals that are evolutionarily close to us. The Ebola virus, however, started with bats and is not well suited to human beings, and compared to other pathogens, it does not mutate quickly.
Also, the way the Ebola virus causes disease in humans is not conducive to it becoming endemic. Unlike other viruses, it doesn’t spread easily to casual contacts – for example, it isn’t transmitted to people passing in the street, like influenza. Instead it spreads through unsafe burials and caring for sick patients. When the risks are understood, and when the end of the chain of social networks is identified, the disease can be stopped in its tracks. That’s how the Ebola epidemic has been brought to a halt in other countries.
Can the virus survive after a patient has been cured?
Among the 27,000 cases of Ebola registered so far, we have observed a few ‘late cases’ in which the virus has embedded itself in sites in the body where the immune system is less present, for example in the testes, brain and inside the eyes. Most of these sites are not locations where the virus can easily spread outside the survivor to infect others, semen from the testes being the one exception. But these events are rare, and there are not enough of them to generate many new cases.
These cases show that there is a potential residual risk from survivors, but at the moment it is not quantifiable. In any case, focusing on the risk posed by survivors could be very misleading and take attention and resources away from more generalised surveillance. It is crucial to maintain a surveillance system which is not solely focused on the potential transmission from survivors. Science should now be at the service of Ebola survivors and not the other way around.
What are the medical challenges for Ebola survivors?
There are an estimated 15,000 Ebola survivors in West Africa, many of whom have ongoing physical and mental health problems. The physical problems include joint pain, chronic fatigue, hearing difficulties and eye problems, which could lead to blindness without prompt access to specialised care. The experience of being infected with Ebola and spending time in an Ebola management centre, as well as all the fear surrounding the virus, can lead to severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health problems, including persistent nightmares and flashbacks.
But despite their needs, Ebola survivors can have difficulties accessing health services. Today, there is still some fear among health workers about treating Ebola survivors, while accessing health services can be economically challenging for people who have lost their jobs. It is essential that health authorities and all those involved coordinate their efforts to guarantee timely access to free quality care for survivors and their families.
Since March 2014, teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have treated 10,287 Ebola patients in West Africa.
Delivered by Dr Anders Nordström, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone
Today, 7 November 2015, the World Health Organization declares the end of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
Since Sierra Leone recorded the first Ebola case on 24 May 2014, a total number of 8,704 people were infected and 3,589 have died. From those who tragically lost their lives, 221 of them were healthcare workers. We remember them all today.
We are now moving into a new phase of 90 days enhanced surveillance which will run until 5 February 2016. This new phase is critical as our goal is to ensure a resilient zero and that we can detect and respond to any potential Ebola flare ups. This period is about ensuring that we can consolidate the gains of existing systems to manage future risks.
The World Health Organization commends the Government of Sierra Leone and the people of Sierra Leone for the significant achievement of ending this Ebola outbreak.
The world had never faced an Ebola outbreak of this scale and magnitude and the world has neither seen a nation mobilizing its people and resources as Sierra Leone did. The power of the people of Sierra Leone is the reason why we could put an end to this outbreak today.
This power of the people and the foundation now in place needs to be further nurtured and supported in order to build a strong and resilient public health system which stands ready to contain the next outbreak of a disease, Ebola or any other public health threat.
Under the leadership of the Sierra Leonean Government, an effective response was initiated to manage the outbreak. The use of rapid response teams and strong community involvement to identify new cases early and quickly stop any Ebola virus transmission should continue to be the cornerstone of the national response strategy.
WHO will maintain an enhanced staff presence in Sierra Leone as the response transitions from outbreak control, to support enhanced vigilance and to the recovery of essential health services.
The Ebola outbreak has decimated families, the health system, the economy and social structures. All need to recover and heal.
WHO is confident that the Government of Sierra Leone together with its national and international partners will use the foundation already in place; dedicated and trained health workers; systems for alerts and information management; community engagement and care for people – to deal with other priority health problems, child mortality topping the list.
For Media Enquiries:
Communications Officer, WHO
Dr Margaret Harris
Telephone: +41 227911646 (o)
Mobile: +41 796 036 224 (m)
Dakar, Senegal | AFP | Saturday 11/7/2015 - 13:40 GMT
Key dates in the latest Ebola epidemic, the worst ever outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever which first surfaced in 1976 in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to the latest toll given by the World Health Organization (WHO), the epidemic has left 11,300 dead, mainly in the west African states of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, out of almost 29,000 cases.
But the WHO's declaration that Sierra Leone had ended the outbreak raised hopes that the virus can be defeated.
Four days later it authorises the use of experimental drugs to fight Ebola after an ethical debate.
That day, a Spanish missionary infected in Liberia dies in Madrid, the first European fatality.
Two days earlier, a Spanish nurse in a Madrid hospital becomes the first person to be infected outside Africa. She is treated and given the all-clear on the 19th.
But on February 28, Sierra Leone reintroduces travel restrictions it eased in January as the number of new cases rises.
Liberia is finally declared Ebola-free on May 9, only to see the fever resurface six weeks later.
Guinea extends its health emergency on June 6, and on June 12, Sierra Leone reimposes a three-week curfew.
The capital Freetown suffers a fresh outbreak in mid June, and on June 30, Liberia says Ebola has returned there too.
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La Sierra Leone déclare la fin de l’épidémie Ebola
Ce samedi 07 novembre est déclarée la fin de l’épidémie Ebola en Sierra Leone, après une lutte de plus de 18 mois. Plus de 2 500 volontaires Croix-Rouge ont joué un rôle décisif, prenant toutes les mesures nécessaire pour stopper la transmission du virus : sensibilisation des populations, mais aussi surveillance, désinfection, soutien psychosocial, et aussi, hélas, gestion des cadavres en toute sécurité.
Nous saluons cette annonce et nous sommes soulagés de cette bonne nouvelle. Néanmoins nous devons rester vigilants et garder à l’esprit le cas du Libéria, qui après avoir déclaré la fin de l’épidémie, a décelé de nouveaux cas.
La Croix-Rouge continue de travailler avec le gouvernement du Sierra Leone, et reste en état de vigilance au travers des activités de surveillance des frontières, de support psychologique, et en restant en lien étroit avec les communautés.
Le Burkina Faso, toujours en alerte
Comme tous les pays de la sous-région, au moment de la flambée de l’épidémie Ebola, le Bénin, le Mali et le Burkina Faso étaient menacés. Dans un tel contexte, tant que des cas seront déclarés, le risque de propagation de l’épidémie existe.
La Croix-Rouge de Belgique et la Croix-Rouge burkinabé collaborent depuis près de 20 ans. Ensemble et face à ce risque, nous travaillons sur un projet* de prévention et de préparation à la réponse d'une épidémie Ebola dans le pays.
Aujourd’hui, grâce au travail de la Croix-Rouge:
Jusqu’à présent, aucun cas n’a été détecté au Burkina Faso. Les équipes de volontaires de la Croix-Rouge sont néanmoins prêtes et préparées à intervenir en cas de besoin. Les bonnes pratiques appliquées pour se protéger du virus Ebola ont des effets positifs puisqu’elles permettent également de se protéger d’autres maladies.
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By Kieran Guilbert
DAKAR, Nov 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sierra Leone is set to be declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday, when the west African nation will have gone 42 days without any new cases.
Read full article here
By Indrias G. Kassaye
A theatre group in Sierra Leone uses comedy to share the message that Ebola may be almost gone, but awareness is still a matter of life and death.
PORT LOKO DISTRICT, Sierra Leone, 6 November 2015 – Pa Jonsin is having a crisis. His son Junior has come home shaking with fever, and when the boy vomits, panic ensues.
Fortunately this is not real life, but a theatrical drama unfolding in front of an audience in Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom.
More than a hundred villagers, including many children, have gathered to watch the antics of the Pan Family Theatre Group as they perform an Ebola-themed play in the village centre. At times the audience looks concerned, and at other times they burst into laughter and applause.
“Mr. Jonsin’s son came home with the Ebola virus,” says Fatmata Mansery, spokesperson for the Pan Family Theatre Group, who also plays a member of the Ebola response team. “So as soon as he sees the signs and symptoms of Ebola, he decides to call the 117 hotline. We come and rescue his son – that’s the purpose of 117. If you feel sick, if you have dead bodies, you must call 117 – don’t touch the person. Call 117 and they will come and pick the person or the dead body and bury him.”
As of late October, Sierra Leone had not reported any new cases for five weeks, but vigilance remains critical. Sierra Leone had previously gone almost three weeks with zero new cases until one was reported in August, and several others after that.
At the height of the Ebola epidemic, large public gatherings were banned, as a measure to protect public health. Now that the ban has been lifted, the Government of Sierra Leone, in partnership with NGOs, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, has stepped up social mobilization efforts to ensure that people don’t let their guard down, which has made theatre interventions like this one possible.
“Through these drama groups, we are reviving a long tradition of using comedy to address social issues in Sierra Leone,” says Fredrick James, the UNICEF Communication for Development Officer responsible for the initiative. “Comedians helped bring peace and reconciliation following the civil war. Now we are using them to fight Ebola.”
In the play, Pa Jonsin does the right thing when his son comes home sick. He calls 117, and the ambulance team arrives promptly and takes charge of the situation.
“We have this creative way of making the messages, because people were tired of us telling them the same messages [over and over] again,” says Joy Caminade, of UNICEF Sierra Leone. “This is a way for them to enjoy the messaging, to be more attentive to the messengers, and be able to take home the messages to their families, to their communities, to their friends and to their classmates.”
“This play is very good for us,” says 12-year-old Zeinab Khoury. “It is a reminder to all of us children to wash our hands before we enter the classroom.”
As of 21 October, have been 8,704 confirmed cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, with 3,589 confirmed deaths from the virus.
UNICEF works in partnership with WHO, the UK Department for International Development, the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, Government of Japan, Irish AID, and National Committees for UNICEF in response to the Ebola outbreak, including through the recovery phase. UNICEF’s US$160 million appeal for the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone remains underfunded, with approximately $126 million received as of 1 September, leaving a funding gap of $34 million.
Freetown, 7 November 2015– With the WHO declaration that the Ebola virus disease outbreak in Sierra Leone has now ended, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling upon all West African countries affected by the epidemic to integrate trained responders into their community-based health systems.
“Ebola-affected countries face many challenges in strengthening their healthcare systems,” said Alasan Senghore, IFRC director, Africa region. “Trained Red Cross volunteers have transferrable skills which can be used in future disease outbreaks. We call on the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to integrate these workers into community health systems as they begin to recover.”
Through its Community Events-Based Surveillance programme, the Red Cross in Sierra Leone has trained over 2,000 community-based volunteers to act as an early-warning system for Ebola and other epidemics. This engagement and surveillance at the community level, which will continue beyond the end of the epidemic, will strengthen the country’s response capacity and mitigate the human and economic impact of future outbreaks.
Since the start of the outbreak 20 months ago, more than 10,000 Red Cross volunteers have played a critical role in getting to zero cases, conducting safe and dignified burials, contact tracing, psychosocial support, surveillance and social mobilization, as well as operating two treatment centres.
“Our volunteers are among the many heroes of this operation,” said Senghore. “They were accused of spreading the virus and causing deaths. Some were verbally and physically threatened. Many were banned from their own communities. Yet, they never wavered in their commitment to rid their countries of this hideous virus.”
As the outbreak in Sierra Leone ends, the IFRC recognizes its responsibility to ensure that those who helped fight the virus are well supported as they reintegrate back into their communities.
“We have a duty to ensure that our frontline volunteers, who risked their lives to rid Sierra Leone of Ebola, do not suffer long term effects as a result of their heroic actions,” said Senghore. “Many responders continue to face stigmatization because of the invaluable role they played in ending the Ebola outbreak. We cannot abandon them now, and call on our partners to help us, help them.”
One project has already been established to facilitate the reintegration of 800 Red Cross Ebola workers in Sierra Leone. The joint 1.8 million Swiss franc project with UNDP aims to reskill frontline Ebola responders through scholarships, business empowerment grants, vocational training and career mentoring. Ongoing psychosocial support will continue to be provided, to help responders cope with any stigma they may face.
“It may be challenging for them to find a new job or return to school. This joint project with our partners at UNDP will help make that transition as smooth as possible,” added Senghore.
A similar project with UNDP is also planned when the Ebola outbreak ends in Guinea, which continues to report fewer than ten confirmed cases a month.
In Liberia, Red Cross volunteers received a negotiated package to assist them as they integrated into new employment, when the outbreak was declared over in September.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.
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Benoit Carpentier, Team leader, public communications, IFRC Mobile : +41 79 213 24 13 +41 79 213 24 13 , E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
After 42 days without new Ebola infections, Sierra Leone was declared free of the deadly Ebola infection on Saturday Nov. 7. The disease had raged in the country for well over a year, and claimed nearly 4,000 lives.
“Saturday should be a day of celebration for the people of Sierra Leone and everyone who has fought this epidemic,” explains Gaëlle Faure of Handicap International’s Ebola program. “When we reach the end of a crisis, we must celebrate—we should make the most of it!”
The number of confirmed cases had already dropped significantly by early 2015, but curbing an epidemic on this scale, spread over such a wide geographic area, was extremely complicated. Throughout the year, restrictions were put in place and a large-scale operation mounted to track and eradicate the virus. Until the last case had been reported, this demanded a considerable effort on the part of the population.
“The whole country was called upon to help, and it was important for Handicap International--working in Sierra Leone since 2000--to be involved in that effort,” Faure explains. “We organized the case-management and transport of people with Ebola or who were displaying symptoms of the virus in the Freetown region. The project transported 98% of cases reported to the authorities in the Western Area district. A total of 3,783 patients were transported without the risk of contaminating other people. More than 1,800 homes were also decontaminated by our teams during these operations. Now it’s time to show them what a great job they’ve done.”
Optimism needs to be tempered by caution and, although Handicap International’s teams are celebrating the event, they will remain mobilized to deal with any new cases and to participate in the efforts to put the country back on its feet after 18 months of such a crisis.
“In Liberia, there were new cases this summer, despite the fact that the country had been declared Ebola-free in May,” Faure cautions. “Despite all the efforts deployed, it is still possible that some cases have not been detected or that new infections happen through Guinea, where cases are still recorded. In addition, many survivors are still fighting with the long term effects of the virus, on a physical and psychological level.
“Today is a day of celebration, but we need to stay alert until the epidemic has been eradicated in the region as a whole. We’re also mindful of the victims of the virus, those who have lost loved ones, and those who have been hit by the crisis and who will need more time and support. For them, and for the population as a whole, today should bring relief and hope.”
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