DEC member agencies step up Ebola healthcare support


Disasters Emergency Committee member organisations are increasing their support for health systems in West Africa that have been overwhelmed in the battle to tackle Ebola.
The Department for International Development (DFID) today opened a Ministry of Defence-built treatment facility that will be run by Save the Children in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone, while children’s charity Plan International announced the launch of five community care centres for those displaying symptoms in one of the country’s Ebola hotspots. 
The Red Cross has been running a 60-bed treatment centre in Sierra Leone’s Kenema district - one of the most heavily affected areas - since September. The centre, which is also partially funded by DFID, was opened at the request of the Sierra Leone government after the local hospital lost a number of health workers to the virus.
So far 143 people have been admitted to the Red Cross treatment centre, 42 of whom have now been discharged. As well as clinical assistance, patients also receive counselling before they return home, to help them reintegrate. The Red Cross plans to operate the centre for a year but will need further funding to ensure this is possible.  
John English, Ebola Response Manager at the British Red Cross said:  “Our treatment centre in Kenema has been providing care to people who have been diagnosed with Ebola from across the country, but there are still Ebola patients who don’t have anywhere to go – who are not only being denied the treatment they need but risk passing the virus to members of their family and communities who are caring for them.”
“More resources are urgently needed in order to provide case management beds where patients can be isolated and receive the medical support and care they need. This is no small feat – these beds need to be managed properly with strict isolation and protection procedures – which won’t be possible without more funding and experienced personnel.”
Plan’s facilities, supported by DFID and the World Health Organisation, will provide crucial care in Port Loko, about 45 miles east of Freetown, for up to 40 suspected cases a week.  
The new units, which will provide basic care, pain relief, food and water, are intended to ease the pressure on treatment centres by separating suspected cases from those already showing advanced symptoms. 
With Ebola test results in the area taking several days, people who fear they have contracted the disease will be encouraged to attend care centres to reduce the risk of them potentially passing it on. Confirmed cases will then be referred on for full treatment where possible; the centres will also liaise with teams co-ordinating safe burial.
Plan’s Emergency Response Manager Dualta Roughneen said: “There are simply not enough beds available at treatment centres, which means people with symptoms remain in their houses, potentially infecting family and friends.”
“These community care centres will be necessary to provide care in a safe and dignified manner, while reducing further transmission.”  
Action Aid is also looking into opening similar care centres that would be run by local community health workers and help reduce the volume of people currently overwhelming Ebola treatment centres.


  • Treatment centres are for confirmed cases of Ebola, with patients receiving specialist medical attention to maximise their chances of survival and being held in conditions of strict isolation.
  • Care centres are designed to help alleviate the pressure on treatment centres and to limit the spread of the disease by separating patients with suspected cases from the wider community.
  • Photos and B-roll of treatment and care centres and case studies of Ebola survivors are available on request.
  • The DEC brings 13 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, Care International, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly.
  • All of our members will support the appeal and 12 of our 13 members are responding either directly or through partner organisations.
  • Donations can be made at any high street bank and at post office counters.
  • To donate £5 by text send the word.  The full £5 will go to the DEC Ebola Crisis Appeal. Donors must be 16 years or over and have the bill payer’s permission. Texts are free and donations will be added to the bill.

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