"Ebola has brought fears of being killed by a neighbour or friend who has the deadly virus" says George Korhadi, the national director of SOS Children's Villages Liberia. "We have seen all hell break loose. Families and patients do not want to accept the news. Despite all the sensitising, people are still in denial."
Over 1420 people in West Africa have been killed by the Ebola outbreak that is sweeping the region. Nearly twice that number (2615) have been infected. With a current fatality rate of 55% - which can be up to 90% - Ebola has brought fear to communities and placed strain on under-prepared medical centres.
"We are very busy at the medical clinic - this is now where most of our efforts go" says Korhadi. The SOS Medical Centre in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is the only one in the city still operating 24 hours a day. This is because several public hospitals and clinics in the area have closed due to medical staff dying from Ebola. Other medical workers are afraid of the virus or lack proper protection, and are not turning up to work. Consequently, the already struggling health sector in Liberia is buckling under the urgent need created by the Ebola outbreak.
Protective clothing a relief for SOS Medical Centre
Although the SOS Medical Centre in Monrovia is not treating Ebola patients, staff are at high risk of contracting Ebola from potential victims of the virus. It came as a welcome relief therefore when 100 sets of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) were given to medical workers on Monday.
“We are happy to receive these items because with the kind of services that we offer as medical practitioners we need to interact with the patients, but with this current outbreak of the Ebola Virus in Liberia, we can’t interact freely without having to use these appropriate PPE materials,” said Ms. Quendi Appleton, the clinic’s administrator.
The Head Nurse of the clinic, Ms Evan-Lin Wonlue said: “Anytime we receive supplies of PPE materials I feel more confident to work. We are very grateful for this protective clothing." The protective materials will allow the centre to treat more patients.
Disruption to everyday life
Elsewhere in Liberia - where the death toll has reached 624 and rising - the Ministry of Health has run out of rubber boots and hand sanitiser - essential for preventing the spread of Ebola. Other affected countries in West Africa are beginning to suffer from shortages of food, fuel and basic supplies after shipping companies and airlines stopped services to the region.
At the SOS Children's Villages in Liberia, everyone's movements have been restricted to reduce the risk of infection. Schools have been closed and their planned re-opening postponed.
"It has been difficult to cope, and it has not been easy for me to ask some of our SOS mums and aunties to leave us and stay in their communities, or for those who remained to know they cannot leave to go to their families. The SOS mums remaining must still risk their lives when they go to the market to but food to cook for the children."
In Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, SOS Children is taking strict precautions to protect children and staff from the Ebola virus. We continue to monitor the situation closely and all SOS staff are being vigilant. Mr Simon Tokpohozin from our office in Liberia says, “We will win the victory of the fight against the deadly Ebola virus”.
If you would like to give long-term support to children in West Africa, have you considered sponsoring a child?