Aid workers in PPE carry a body bag to a grave
Aid workers in PPE carry a body bag to a grave

Ebola Crisis

Ebola Crisis

A Red Cross Ebola burial team at work in Sierra Leone. Image: Katherine Mueller/IFRC

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Key achievements

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£37 million

raised, including £5 million matched by the UK Government

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1.85 million

people were reached with health information to help prevent the spread of the virus

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people were trained to pass on health messages

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people were given cash grants to restore their livelihoods 

In March 2014 a rapidly evolving outbreak of Ebola started in Guinea and spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. 

When the DEC launched our appeal on 29 October 2014, 13,000 cases were confirmed or suspected and almost 5,000 people had died. The WHO said that this outbreak was unprecedented in terms of its scale, severity and complexity. There were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. 


  • The three countries at the centre of the current Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, were ranked towards the bottom of the 2013 Human Development Index. Out of 187 countries and territories, they ranked 174 (Liberia), 177 (Sierra Leone) and 178 (Guinea). 
  • In 2013, life expectancy in Sierra Leone was the one of lowest in the world at 48 years. Life expectancy in Liberia and Guinea was higher at 57 and 54.5 years, respectively.
  • The three countries were rebuilding after years of recent conflict. Sierra Leone’s civil war ended in 2002 (1991–2002), since then the country’s development index has been increasing rapidly.
  • Liberia has been through two civil wars since 1989, the second ending in 2003.
  • Sharing borders with both Liberia and Sierra Leone, Guinea was occasionally drawn into the conflicts in those countries in 2000. Rioting and political protests have taken place as recently as 2013.
  • Healthcare resources in the most affected countries were already stretched, with Guinea having 10 physicians per 100,000 people and Liberia just 1.4.
  • Ebola was first identified in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks, one in Sudan and the other in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the WHO.
  • Since the first outbreak there have been 33 incidents of Ebola, including the 2014 crisis. 
Lenny Henry presents the appeal

The Ebola Crisis Appeal with Lenny Henry

Watch Ebola Crisis Appeal - #StopTheSpread on YouTube.


  • Intense transmission of Ebola took place in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and these were therefore the three countries worst affected by the crisis. 
  • Cases of Ebola also occurred in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Spain, the USA and the UK in 2014, and in Italy in 2015. An unrelated outbreak also occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Healthcare workers were particularly vulnerable to the disease due to their high risk of exposure. According to WHO, there were 815 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola among medical staff in the worst-affected countries, of whom two-thirds died.
  • The final number of cases and deaths according to WHO stood at 28,616 and 11,310 respectively.

A Save the Children treatment centre at Kerry Town near Freetown, Sierra Leone. Image: Louis Leeson/Save the Children

The most urgent need was to help prevent the spread of ebola through a mass community effort to prevent misinformation and educate people about the virus. 1.85 million were reached with health information, and 440,000 people were trained to pass on health messages. 

With markets closed to help prevent the spread of the virus, many lost their livelihoods. More than 47,000 people received cash grants to buy seeds to plant or goods to sell in reopened markets, and in Liberia 17,000 women were trained in running small businesses. 

Twenty-two-year-old Kadiatu Conteh was just one of the women who received help to start her life again after the devastation of the ebola outbreak. Kadiatu, who lives in Sierra Leone, one of the worst hit countries, was the only member of her family to survive after they all contracted the virus. Tragically, Kadiatu lost her mother, father, sister, brother and newborn baby daughter. She enrolled in a training scheme and began studying for a certificate in electrical installation, the only woman in her class. She also received a monthly stipend of Le 100,000. Kadiatu said: “The course was tough at the initial stage but now I am comfortable with it. I thought all was lost for me, but with this skills training I am sure, upon completing my course, I will use this knowledge to do something beneficial for myself.” 

Plan International staff prepare food packages at a distribution centre in Guinea. Image: Plan UK


  • Twelve of the DEC’s members – some of the UK’s leading aid charities – responded across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, reaching 2.85 million people In Phase 1 of the response (October 2014 to April 2015), including an estimated 1 million people with relief assistance.
  • Phase 1 focused on preventing the spread of the disease. DEC members helped to mobilise a mass community effort to halt the virus, reaching 1.85 million with health information and other activities.
  • Other crucial aspects of the Phase 1 response included ensuring safe and dignified burials, often challenging due to the cultural practice of washing and touching bodies before burial; and active case-finding and referral of those suspected of being infected.
  • In Phase 2 (May 2015 to October 2016), DEC member charities reached 1.63 million people.
  • Rainwater harvesting was piloted in a region of Sierra Leone that had previously relied on wells. In addition to drying up during the dry season, wells cannot be built after the onset of the rainy season. Rainwater harvesting systems, including water tanks capable of collecting and storing up to 6,000 litres of rainwater, were installed in 24 schools, giving students and teachers quicker access to a vital water supply.

Protective equipment including gloves stored in a warehouse for use by front line workers

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The decision to launch our first appeal in response to a disease outbreak reflected the severity of the ebola crisis in Western Africa.

DEC CEO Saleh Saeed said: “While many chronic diseases cause untold suffering in poorer countries, the worst acute outbreaks of deadly diseases such as measles or cholera have usually occurred in the wake of another type of disaster. In West Africa today we are seeing a disease create not just a medical crisis but a humanitarian emergency. Without urgent action to stop the spread of Ebola and to help those affected by the crisis, parts of West Africa face catastrophe within 60 days.”

Thanks to the generosity of the public, our appeal was a huge success and every donation contributed to saving lives.


Read more about how funds were spent and how the response to this crisis was evaluated 


for this appeal, including £5 million matched by the UK Government