Via MSF: Battling the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. Excerpt:
As the Ebola outbreak continues to spread, with 1,093 cases and 660 deaths now reported across west Africa, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is stepping up its response in the most affected areas. While the number of cases in Guinea has declined significantly, in neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia more and more people are being infected with the virus. With resources already stretched, health authorities and international organizations are struggling to bring the outbreak under control.
In Sierra Leone—now the epicenter of the epidemic, with 454 cases recorded so far—MSF is rapidly scaling up its response, with 22 international and 250 Sierra Leonean staff currently working in the country. In Kailahun, in the east of the country, the team is running a 64-bed Ebola treatment center.
Since the facility opened on June 24, 131 suspected, probable, and confirmed patients have been admitted for treatment. So far, 12 patients have recovered and returned home to their families. An MSF psychologist is providing support and counseling to patients and their families, as well as to other MSF staff members.
MSF is also supporting the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) at two referral sites in the villages of Koindu and Buedu in Kailahun district, where people with symptoms of Ebola are isolated before being transferred by ambulance to MSF’s center in town.
In the past three weeks, MSF has trained more than 200 community health workers to deliver essential health messages to people in their villages about how to protect themselves against Ebola and what action to take if someone shows any signs or symptoms of the disease.
MSF will now focus its efforts on halting the spread of the disease in the area straddling the Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia borders, where the population is very mobile and people continue to transmit the disease to different villages. The team will scale up its health promotion and outreach activities in the villages in this area, and reinforce the alert system so that any new suspected cases can be identified promptly and transferred in MSF’s ambulance to Kailahun for treatment.
In Liberia, the situation is deteriorating rapidly, with cases of Ebola now confirmed in seven counties, including in the capital, Monrovia. There are critical gaps in all aspects of the response, and urgent efforts are needed to scale up, particularly in terms of contact tracing, organizing safe burials, and establishing a functioning alert system.
Already stretched beyond capacity in Guinea and Sierra Leone, MSF is able to provide only limited technical support to the Liberian Ministry of Health. MSF has set up an Ebola treatment center in Foya, in Lofa county in northern Liberia, where cases have been increasing since the end of May. After the initial set up, MSF handed over the management of the center to nongovernmental organization Samaritan’s Purse on July 8.