ACT Alliance Alert: Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and possibly Sierra Leone

by Elisabeth Gouel | | ACT Alliance - Switzerland
Thursday, 10 April 2014 16:12 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.



Ebola outbreak in Liberia and Guinea (and possible outbreak in Sierra Leone)

Geneva, 10 April 2014

1.    Brief description of the emergency and impact

The Ebola disease started from Guinea, which remains the most affected country so far with currently 157 suspected cases and 101 deaths. It has now spread to Liberia, mainly through the Northern towns in Lofa County. It has affected people in Foya, Lofa County mostly and we have also received information of suspected cases in Tappita, Nimba County, North-eastern Liberia and Du Side in Firestone, Margibi County. Nationally, 21 cases have been reported, including 10 deaths. This deadly virus is a serious threat to the people of Guinea, Liberia and also potentially for Sierra Leone, for being surrounded by both countries. The Ebola disease has neither cure, nor vaccine. It can only be prevented or curtailed. Besides, the Ebola virus fatality rate is very high:  90 percent.

2.    Why is an ACT response needed?

Most of the hospitals in Liberia do not have the necessarily materials and knowledge to protect health workers, most patients suspected of the virus are now being rejected by health facilities.
Staff of the Lutheran Church in Liberia related organizations and other health workers of other faith-based establishments are working in hospitals, villages and towns where there are little or no protective measures. These people need to be protected against the disease and there is also need to create awareness among the population in places where they work. They will need Personal Protective Equipment such as Jackets, gloves, respirators, etc.  In addition to these materials, there is a need to hold gatherings to create the awareness and distribute manuals, jingoes, etc. It is really important to inform health workers and the population about this disease, as this is the first time they are facing Ebola. They need to know what it is and how they can protect themselves. Life will therefore be saved thanks to preventive measures.

3.    National and international response

The World Health Organization (WHO), working with technical partners in the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), has deployed field lab support, as well as a number of experts in anthropology, epidemiology, logistics, clinical case management and infection prevention and control and outbreak coordination to support the emergency response efforts in Guinea. The WHO Country Office in Liberia carrying out needs assessments in areas such as procurement and the supply chain for critical materials and equipment need in the response to the outbreak. A number of other organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save the Children and others, are providing medical supplies and equipment, as well as protective equipment in response to the outbreak response efforts. Community education and social mobilization activities have been strongly supported by the media and telecommunications sectors in Liberia. Local government officials, community and religious leaders and traditional healers have been approached for prevention and control activities; however, additional resources are needed to expand surveillance and health promotion and social mobilization activities to schools, religious gatherings, market places and work places. Plans are also underway to mobilize the public through house-to-house visits.

4.    ACT Alliance response

The Lutheran Development Service in Liberia has been holding meetings to plan how to intervene in the situation to save lives.  Moreover, the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in Bong County and the Curran Memorial Hospital in Lofa County are preparing to respond to possible cases of Ebola whenever they are brought to their attention despite the risk involved. This is why it is critical that they are well prepared and protected as they strive to save lives; two of the 10 victims of Ebola in Liberia were health professionals.  This morning the Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL)’s Health and Social Works Board had an emergency meeting to discuss the issue. It was during the Board’s meeting that decision was reached to seek support from partners to intervene in the situation. The ACT Alliance Liberia Forum is in agreement and also has the intention to have a regional intervention.  

5.    Planned activities

The main activities will include needs assessment, create awareness among the population, and providing/distributing needed materials such as personal protective equipment to health workers (including a set of gloves, jackets, footwear, etc.).  As the WHO and INGOs, especially MSF are reaching to local actors, including religious institutions and are delivering material support of protection to health institution, the best way would be to try to get in touch with these organizations to get support from them. The Lutheran Church in Liberia is currently implementing an HIV/AIDS project in Guinea, so they may use this staff and church members to access the Guinean population. Mostly informative and awareness prevention measures would be carried on through the members in Sierra Leone.
A Rapid Response Fund will be forthcoming in order to undertake these activities.

6.    Constraints

The main constraint is availability of the needed materials to protect health workers who are responsible to take care of victims of the virus

Any funding indication or pledge should be communicated to Jean-Daniel Birmele, Director of Finance (