Ebola is an extremely contagious virus, which has no cure and is usually fatal. Ebola victims endure flu-like symptoms followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and often internal and external bleeding.
The ongoing outbreak in West Africa began in Guinea, before spreading into Liberia and Sierra Leone, both of which have declared states of emergency. There are also now two confirmed cases of Ebola in Lagos, Nigeria, and seven suspected cases.
Protective equipment urgently needed
There remains a high level of transmission in the region, and a spokesman from WHO said: “it's probably going to be several months before we are able to get a grip on this epidemic”. Protective equipment is urgently needed in affected countries, who are requesting funding to help them tackle the crisis.
Emmanuel Olatungie, the National Director at SOS Children’s Villages Sierra Leone, said:
“We hope we will be able to receive the desperately needed funding to procure necessary medical materials and supplies to assist in our fight against Ebola and to continue to keep our children, mothers and co-workers safe.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) met with West African governments last week to decide the best course of action, announcing $100m of funding to support containment and treatment for patients. The World Bank has allocated $200m to the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help them contain the Ebola outbreak.
Many refuse to accept Ebola is real
One of the challenges of tackling the Ebola virus is that public awareness campaigns have had limited success. In Liberia, patients suspected of having Ebola are staying at home and being hidden by their family. This is because they fear that going to the hospital is a death sentence. Simon Tokpohozin, from SOS Liberia National Office, says,
“In Monrovia, the population is not taking the Ebola virus seriously despite the media attention (in radio, newspapers and television). People are hiding their sick relatives in their homes or taking them to the traditional doctors or to pastors. As a consequence, not only the sick persons are dying, but also the traditional doctors, the pastors and those helpers who assist them in their homes.”
Similar obstacles to stopping the spread of Ebola are found in Sierra Leone. Despite media campaigns to raise awareness of the virus, many are “refusing to accept the fact that Ebola is real” says SOS Sierra Leone National Director, Mr Olatungie Woode.
Furthermore, movement has not been restricted in the country. “The biggest concern is that suspected Ebola patients are leaving hospitals and fleeing to other areas, thereby increasing the risk of spreading the disease even more”, says Mr Woode.
A lack of medical workers and protective equipment
As the risk of being infected by Ebola increases, many health workers in highly affected areas are not going to work for fear of contamination. Having witnessed many of their colleagues die due to the disease, it is not an unfounded fear.
A lack of protective materials in the country is another reason why health workers are refusing to care for patients. However, the shortage of qualified medical staff is placing an extra burden on health centres, which are already struggling to deal with the Ebola outbreak.
Many governmental hospitals and clinics have closed down in Liberia. Schools and non-essential government departments have also temporarily closed to help prevent the spread of the virus. This includes The SOS Schools and Nursery, which have been closed until further notice - as requested by the government.
In Sierra Leone, a few NGOs have closed down their operations and foreign workers have been evacuated. Schools in badly affected areas have also closed in the country. SOS Schools in Sierra Leone are now closed for the summer holidays, and are due to open in September if the Ebola outbreak has been contained by then.
SOS Medical Centre helping those affected
In Liberia, where many health centres are rejecting patients, the SOS Medical Centre in Monrovia is providing care for people in need. The centre has been congratulated by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for its exceptional response to the disease. When a team from the ministry visited the SOS Medical Centre last week, they commended the staff for “the pragmatic, professional and technical ways [they] are handling the situation”.
SOS Medical Centre Monrovia is regarded as highly effective in managing the Ebola crisis, and is the only major health facility in Monrovia that is still working 24 hours a day. The centre is taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease as well as increasing public awareness of the risk. Critical cases are being refered to designated Ebola control centres.
Are children in the SOS Villages safe?
At present, no children or staff at SOS Children's Villages have been affected by the Ebola virus, nor suspected of having it. In Liberia, the SOS National Director says that “We are more vigilant and we are seriously implementing all the preventative measures we set in place”. At every entrance to the Children's Villages are buckets of water mixed with chlorine and disinfectants, which every visitor must use to wash their hands before entering.
Similar preventative measures are being taken at all three SOS Children's Villages in Sierra Leone, particularly in Bo where the virus is reported to be widespread. These measures are recommended by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in the country, who we are working in partnership with.
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”.
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