Today marks the half way point in the UN’s Ebola response plan for West Africa which aims to bring the outbreak under control by the end of November.
Since Oct 1st, we have seen some positive and encouraging steps. For example, pledges have reached almost $1 billion and several nations have offered military and other support, and the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday that the rate of Ebola infections in Liberia appears to be declining.
But the crisis is far from over. Huge gaps in the number of laboratories, burial teams and hospital beds remain, and more foreign medical teams are needed. Burial teams need more support and equipment to safely do their jobs, and local staff needs proper training to be able to address misconceptions around the Ebola and teach families how to protect themselves.
All of this cannot be achieved without the appropriate skills, knowledge and personnel – but they are in short supply. The lack of a reliable medical evacuation service and imposed quarantines are making it difficult for foreign aid workers to provide the support required to keep the response on track.
Oxfam is working in West Africa to prevent the spread of Ebola both by improving access to water, cleaning equipment and protective clothing, and by talking with communities about Ebola and offering them support and information to try to prevent further infections.
"I am a housewife, but I volunteer to do community health work, because of our people, to save their lives - because Ebola is a deadly disease. That is why I volunteer myself to do this work. Mary Kamara, Community Health Worker in Congo Town, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
So far our preventative work has directly reached almost half a million people in Liberia and Sierra Leone. We have also indirectly reached more than 2.3 million people via our radio jingles, TV shows, educational posters and CDs so that they better understand the virus, know how they can protect themselves and what they should do if they start showing symptoms so that the infection can be better contained.
"We feel good because it's the first time we have seen people talking to us about Ebola. During the last three days lock down in the country, we sat and nobody came. They say it’s a virus. If someone is sick we should report to the hospital, they say we should not touch dead bodies; we should not wash dead bodies even if it’s our husband. We should not attend funerals. We should call 117 if we have any health problem." Moriba Bangura, resident of Congo Town, Freetown, after talking with Oxfam trained community health workers.
Notes to editors
In Sierra Leone, Oxfam is:
- Providing water and sanitation services and protective clothing to 19 health facilities in Freetown, Koinadugu, Rakupa and Laka.
- Providing and repairing water, sanitation and solid waste systems at 3 health facilities and two public health units (PHUs).
- Providing protective equipment and clothing to teams following up on suspected cases in Freetown and Koinadugu so they can safely bring infected people to get treatment.
- Providing equipment and support to burial teams.
- Training more than 500 community health workers to make repeat door-to-door calls and educate families on how to protect themselves from Ebola and what to do if somebody catches the virus. Together they are reaching more than 280,000 people.
- Set up 108 hand washing stations in Freetown and Koinadugu.
- Producing radio jingles, TV shows and posters that are reaching an additional 1.5 million people with essential information on how to prevent catching Ebola.
In Liberia, Oxfam is:
- Providing two medical facilities in Monrovia with sanitation system support
- Training more than 500 community health workers to make door-to-door calls in Monserrado County. They are letting families know what they can do to avoid contracting Ebola and what to do if somebody catches the virus. Together they have reached more than 93, 450 people.
- In Monrovia, we are providing 6,500 hygiene kits that will protect 45,500 people
- In rural areas of Grand Gedeh and River Gee, 1,200 families have received prevention information and hygiene kits.
- 2,500 people have received prevention information.