One year on, Ebola cases close to zero and recovery begins

Ruth Yomoi - an Ebola survivor from Monrovia, Liberia.Ruth Yomoi - an Ebola survivor from Monrovia, Liberia.

One year on from the launch of the DEC’s Ebola Crisis Appeal, the UK public has donated £37 million to the response and DEC agencies have reached more than 1.9 million people with food, water, health supplies and face to face awareness raising activities. Many more have been reached with radio programmes promoting Ebola prevention messages.  

Member agencies are working across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to prevent the spread of the disease by providing hygiene services and clean water, referring people for treatment and supporting health centres to cope better with the influx of cases. Large-scale education campaigns have trained people to reduce the risk of infection or provide psychosocial support to survivors. 

During quarantine, DEC members have been helping families to access food, water and essential relief supplies while they are unable to leave their homes. Some agencies are also providing cash to people who have lost their sources of income and need to replace essential assets and others are helping communities bury their loved ones safely. 

While the number of new cases in the region has dropped dramatically and reached zero in Liberia and Sierra Leone, two recent cases in Guinea provide a worrying reminder that the crisis is still not truly over. The virus has now killed more than 11,000 people over two years. Even when all affected countries are declared Ebola free, communities will be struggling with the effects of the crisis for a long time to come. 

The DEC’s Chief Executive Saleh Saeed said: 

“The Ebola crisis appeal was the first time the DEC has asked the UK public to support its response to a disease. West Africa was facing more than a health emergency, it was a humanitarian disaster which has destroyed families, incomes and homes. One year on, our work to raise awareness has helped reduce the number of new cases. Now we must focus our attention on strengthening the fragile health systems and helping survivors to recover.”

Poor rural areas have been affected by a disruption to agricultural production with a 30 percent drop in agricultural outputs in Sierra Leone. In the district of Kailahun, 13 percent of households were food insecure in 2011 – this year that’s risen to 74 percent .

The crisis has put pressure on already fragile health systems, meaning they have been unable to provide other services such as mass immunisation against preventable disease. In Sierra Leone, the impact on doctors, nurses and midwives means there is now only 3.4 health worker for every 10,000 people.  The World Bank estimates a maternal mortality ratio of 1,916 per 100,000 live births in May 2015, a 74% increase on 2013 .

Overall DEC members have distributed almost 70,000 hygiene kits and more than 43,600 relief kits. More than 1.8 million people have been reached with preventative health messages through house-to-house visits, drama, community gatherings or schools. This lifesaving information has helped people to understand how to reduce the risk of Ebola and what do to if they are infected. 

The DEC’s response has made the most its existing community networks to reach as many people as possible and help reduce high-risk behaviours.

Over the first year, other activities include:  

  • Action Aid has provided more than 5,000 children in Sierra Leone with basic learning materials. 
  • Age International has trained 9,620 mobilisers in Sierra Leone on the needs of vulnerable groups and older people.
  • The British Red Cross has distributed 2,000 Survivor Kits to survivors and people affected by Ebola in Sierra Leone.
  • CAFOD has provided 1,039 places of worship with disinfection kits to reduce infection rates in Sierra Leone. 
  • CARE International reached more than 39,800 people in Sierra Leone with hygiene kits.
  • Christian Aid provided 2,271 orphans people in Sierra Leone with food packages of rice, salt, vegetable oil, beans and tomato paste.
  • Concern provided sharps pits and incinerators to nine health facilities, helping 22,500 people in Sierra Leone. 
  • Oxfam distributed 98 handwashing points benefiting 15,680 people in Sierra Leone. 
  • Plan reached more than 4,000 people with cash grants in Liberia. 
  • Save the Children helped 5,170 people in Guinea with reintegration kits, which included bedding and kitchenware.
  • Tearfund provided 6,208 people in quarantine and those affected by Ebola with food in Liberia 
  • World Vision trained 200 faith leaders on safe and dignified burial practices.