Ebola Outbreak

Ebola symptoms

What is Ebola:

The world's largest Ebola virus outbreak is now showing signs of receding. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), which initially declared Ebola a global health emergency in 2014, the response has now moved to a second phase, as the focus shifts from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic. For the first time since the week ending June 29, 2014, there have been fewer than 100 new confirmed cases reported in a week in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

As of January 28, 2015 the total number of probable, suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola was over 22,000, with almost 8,800 deaths. In Liberia, only three counties have yet to become Ebola-free. Efforts have moved from rapidly building infrastructure to increasing capacity for identifying and managing cases and community engagement.

Small sporadic outbreaks continue to be reported in urban centers and porous border towns, where people are vulnerable to cross-border transmissions. With the onset of the dry season, it is expected that more people will be on the move, which poses a risk of potential spread. As a result, increased surveillance and sharing of information is needed in the border districts of Guinea-Bissau, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Senegal. Although there are signs that the virus outbreak is lessening, the crisis has created urgent needs in child protection, education, health and livelihoods across the region, which is home to 22.3 million people.

The Impact on Children:

Children are always among the most vulnerable in an emergency. Since the initial Ebola outbreak, children and their families have been exposed to extreme distress due to loss, family separation, isolation and overall disruption of society. Children have been especially frightened by prolonged confinement at home or isolation units and by witnessing the suffering of family members. Although the number of new Ebola cases is declining, orphans and child survivors continue to face abandonment and stigmatization in their communities. Areas of concern are:

Some areas of continued concern are:

  • When unaccompanied or separated children are admitted to treatment centers or become orphaned, they risk psychosocial distress and exploitation. They are in urgent need of family tracing, reunification and reintegration, alternative care, psychosocial support and assistance in meeting day-to-day needs.
  • Children's access to health care has been compromised. Already weak health systems suffered under the strain of the outbreak, which reversed considerable gains made in recent years to curb maternal and child deaths.
  • UNICEF estimates school closures affected the education of more than 5 million children. Once children are out of school, many never return. As a result, they become at risk of engaging in exploitative situations, such as child labor.

Ebola Update:

With a long-term presence in West Africa, Save the Children has worked at the heart of the crisis from the start. We have helped to stop the spread of Ebola and reduce its impact on children and their families. Our staff has played a vital role in bolstering community awareness and engagement in affected regions - a factor which is now thought to be a major reason behind the improving situation in Liberia.

Save the Children has continually adapted its approach to more effectively contain future transmissions and to better respond to the changing needs of children and families who have been affected by the outbreak. We are focused on containing sporadic outbreaks in hard- to-reach remote communities in the affected countries. Our teams are helping strengthen efforts to identify new cases, isolate and treat Ebola patients, and conduct contact tracing in order to interrupt individual chains of transmission.

With schools reopening in Guinea over the past week and scheduled to reopen in Liberia on February 2, our education teams are leading efforts to ensure schools are safe and have water, sanitation and hygiene supplies and proper infection and prevention control equipment. Teachers must also be trained on Ebola safety procedures and be ready to help children transition back to the classroom after many months. In addition, we are working to implement health screenings for students to make sure they are up to date on their vaccinations. This will ensure other preventable diseases such as tuberculosis and measles are not transmitted in schools.

We are also working at the national and county level to strengthen health systems by reviewing policies that were in place prior to the Ebola outbreak and improving facilities for the future. We are rehabilitating community health centers by providing medical supplies, building wells, and training staff for infection prevention and control.


In Liberia, we continue to identify, triage, test and refer patients to our Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) through our two Community Care Centers. The ETUs we constructed, which are now managed by International Medical Corps (IMC), treat patients in isolation wards and provide expert medical care and treatment. We continue to train community health workers and midwives on infection prevention and contact tracing; provide health care facilities with urgently needed medical supplies; set up hand-washing stations at health facilities; and supply food and water to Ebola patients. We have also rehabilitated and supplied transit centers for children, helped identify foster families to care for children and distributed education kits to households and quarantined children. Newest developments include:

  • Supplied personal protective equipment, a three- month consignment of drugs and non-medical supplies, and household protection kits to 11 primary health facilities in Monterrado and completed the construction of 18 temporary triage and isolation units in Margibi.
  • Conducted positive parenting training for 30 foster families who expressed interest in fostering Ebola orphans.
  • Distributed infection prevention materials to 16 schools in Bong and Education in Emergency kits to over 620 children in Monterrado.
  • Reunited 22 children with their biological families.
  • Established a survivor network in Bong in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare.

As the crisis evolves in Liberia, Save the Children has identified a need for an additional $10 million to help us address urgent needs in affected areas, including child protection, education, food security and family livelihoods.

Sierra Leone:

In Sierra Leone, Save the Children manages the 80- bed Ebola Treatment Unit in Kerry Town with over 500 frontline medical staff and provides staff at primary health clinics with supplies and training for infection prevention and control. On January 6, a milestone was reached, with the 100th survivor of Ebola being released from the unit. Our staff is leading the scale-up of child registration, family tracing and reunification activities. We also provide counselling, food and clothing to children who return to their families or to an alternative caregiver. We have provided financial support, as well as toys, clothes and food, to interim care centers for unaccompanied and orphaned children. New developments include:

  • Supporting the government-led operation in the Western Urban Area, which is reporting continued Ebola hotspots, by distributing personal protective equipment to 105 primary health units (PHU), constructing screening stations in 20 PHUs, and undertaking door-to-door sensitization with community health workers.
  • Engaged over 700 stakeholders in Ebola safe burial and the “No Touch Policy” training.
  • Conducted radio discussions with Ebola survivors and our local partner on the negative impact of stigmatization on children.
  • Conducted sensitization on radio learning programs and distributed solar radios to school management committees, councilors, principals and other stakeholders in eight chiefdoms.

As the crisis evolves in Sierra Leone, Save the Children has identified a need for an additional $10.4 million to help us address child protection and education concerns and to help restore the health infrastructure.


In Guinea, we continue to train health workers, volunteers, Ministry of Transport workers and teachers on Ebola prevention and protection messages; conduct general awareness-raising and radio programs; and strengthen national and local health systems with contact tracing, surveillance and transportation support. We provide protection kits (soap and other supplies) to health centers, schools, public services and transportation stations; and provide emotional, nutritional and social support for children whose families have been affected by Ebola. New developments include:

  • Leading the creation of village health committees in five prefectures as part of a nationwide network.
  • Training 310 trainers who, in turn, will train teachers and other staff from over 2,590 schools on psychosocial support and re-integration for children and families in schools and community settings.
  • Supported water, sanitation and hygiene activities in schools, including the installation of 1,114 handwashing stations.

As the context of the crisis changes in Guinea, Save the Children has identified a need for an additional $2.5 million to help us address contact tracing and restore health facilities and other services.


In Mali, which the WHO has declared to be Ebola- free, Save the Children continues to monitor the situation to ensure no sporadic outbreaks are left unattended.

In this new context, Save the Children has identified a need for an additional $840,000 to address water, sanitation and hygiene and education concerns in Mali.

More About the Ebola Outbreak

Read the latest blog from a relief worker in the field

Across the region, there are 22.3 million people living in areas where Ebola transmission has occurred. Liberia is believed to be the nation most severely impacted - Ebola has surfaced in all of its 15 counties and some 49 percent of all cases are in that country. Women, because of their traditional role as caregivers, are bearing the brunt of the disease burden and make up an estimated 75% of all cases.

Last Update March 2, 2015

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