Thanks so much to all our donors who have contributed to Africare’s Ebola response efforts. Here is an update with examples of the actions we’ve taken so far.
Africare’s response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak is three-pronged:
1. Emergency Response to address urgent needs
2. Behavior Change Communication to educate communities on how to stay healthy
3. Health Systems Strengthening to fortify health care systems against future outbreaks
International Emergency Response Coordination:
With support from UPS and DHL, Africare is shipping Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other necessary medical supplies to protect health care workers, prevent Ebola transmission and assist in treating those infected. Two shipments sent by sea freight are en route, totaling $1.25 million in medical supplies.
Africare is distributing these supplies to health care facilities via Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, and we are partnering with other organizations in the affected areas to provide supplies elsewhere in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. We are continually working to secure and ship more supplies.
Emergency Response in Liberia:
Our extraordinary Africare/Liberia staff is deeply involved in Liberia’s Ebola containment efforts. The many different functions Africare/Liberia is performing on the ground include:
- Providing technical support as a Member of the National Technical Working Group, the technical arm of the Ebola Task Force headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
- Developing protocols and standards for coordinators, supervisors and tracers as a Member of the contact tracing subcommittee
- Serving as a county-chair for epi-surveillance & contact tracing and providing logistics like vehicles, fuel and forms
- Training local government coordinators and supervisors as well as community members on Ebola and contact tracing methods
- Helping to maintain two Ebola hot lines
- Procuring large quantities of PPEs: rubber aprons, rain boots, liquid soap, nose masks, latex gloves, rubber gloves, eye goggles, disposal head caps and more
- Distributing supplies like Clorox, chlohexidene solution, plastic buckets with faucets and knapsacks for disinfecting each health facility in Bong and Nimba Counties
- Training health care workers on safe Ebola health care practices – 200 trained to date
- Providing financial and in-kind incentives for Burial & Disposal teams to perform their hazardous jobs and supporting health technicians to ensure safe burial practices are followed
- Supporting health promotion messaging by health facility staff and Community Health Workers
- Providing incentives for lab technicians to perform blood specimen collection
Behavior Change Communication:
Many Liberian communities are skeptical of the outbreak and initially perceived the Ebola emergency as a ploy by the government to get millions of dollars from international donors. This is one example of the misperceptions that are still too prevalent in the region. Communities simply will not overcome Ebola and avoid future outbreaks without understanding the true causes of the disease and how to prevent it.
The second prong of Africare’s approach will be comprehensive behavior change campaigns. A behavior change campaign around Ebola will address public misconceptions about the disease, its treatment and how it is contracted, informing citizens that there is currently no vaccine or cure. Public misunderstandings complicate the crisis tremendously and are hampering global efforts to contain the virus. A behavior change campaign in the immediate future is necessary, and the campaign needs to be integrated into the health care system, stretching from the most prominent national representatives to the most local of community members. This can be done by targeting relevant messages at key groups: government ministries, local health care workers, local civil-society organizations, traditional community and religious leaders, and local communities themselves.
Health Systems Strengthening:
Liberia’s health care system was fragile and insufficient prior to the Ebola outbreak. Now it is overwhelmed. Health facilities have even been closing in the face of Ebola’s dangers, and people who are suffering from ailments other than Ebola are struggling to find care, and dying.
Also as health facilities close, women begin caring for sick family members at home which increases their risk of exposure and death, especially in rural areas where traditional gender roles are more common. Many children will be left with other relatives to provide care, even though these relatives may be unable to adequately fulfill their own needs.
Africare has several ongoing health projects in the country, supporting local institutions in providing essential health services. We have successfully kept Africare-supported health care facilities open to care for their surrounding populations, and we look to expand and deepen these programs to bolster the capacity of local health systems. This way Liberia will better respond to and ultimately prevent future outbreaks, whether in response to Ebola again or another virulent disease.
Thanks so much again to all of our supporters who have enabled our initiatives so far. If you would like to donate to Africare’s Ebola response efforts, please click here to give now.