Save the Children Works to Help Ebola in Remote Rural Areas in West Africa
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Children need your support of our Ebola's Children Relief Fund to reach more people at risk of Ebola, help save more lives and protect Ebola's orphans. Your support will combat the largest Ebola outbreak in history. Our goal is to reach over 3.5 million people.
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Progress So Far
Ten months after the world's largest Ebola virus outbreak occurred in West Africa and was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), the nature of the epidemic is changing. According to the WHO, the epidemic is now thought to be declining in Liberia but still increasing in Guinea and Sierra Leone, largely in remote areas. As of December 10, the total number of probable, confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola was almost 18,000, with over 6,300 deaths. The impact of the crisis is thought to be far greater, as not all cases have been reported, tested or diagnosed. Across the region, there are 22.3 million people living in areas where Ebola transmission has occurred.
International aid agencies, national governments and the United Nations (UN) are working nonstop to blunt the spread of Ebola and ensure that worst-case scenarios will not be realized. As of December 1, two UN targets have been partially met: 70 percent of Ebola-infected people received treatment in Liberia and Guinea, and 70 percent of those who died of the disease were safely buried in all three countries. But more work needs to be done to contain sporadic outbreaks in remote regions that also put countries that share borders with areas of active transmission – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D'Ivoire and Mali – at risk.
Save the Children has had a strong presence in West Africa for years. We are working around the clock to help stem the spread of the virus and check its catastrophic impact on children and their families. Our staff played a vital role from the onset of the epidemic in bolstering community engagement in affected regions – a factor which is now thought to be a major reason behind the improving situation in Liberia. We are grateful to our brave staff who join other Ebola fighters in earning Time Magazine's Person of the Year in 2014.
As the nature of the epidemic changes, so must our response approach. Save the Children is working now to contain sporadic outbreaks that are occurring in hard to reach remote communities in the affected countries. In Liberia, we will continue to identify, triage, test and refer patients to beds in Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) through our two Community Care Centers (CCC). We will also transform our static CCC model to a more nimble one that will bolster surveillance and contact tracing, and will develop Case Investigation Teams to respond swiftly to individual outbreaks by setting up isolation units, mobile labs and rapid referral mechanisms. We will look to use simple rapid response structures such as pop-up tents that will enable us to concentrate on more active case finding in hot zones to test and triage probable cases quickly.
Our three-pillar strategy to combat Ebola aims to reduce transmission and provide access to life-saving care, restore and strengthen health systems to increase access to treatment for non-Ebola conditions, and mitigate impact on essential services (child protection, education, nutrition, food security and livelihoods) by rehabilitating essential infrastructure and systems.
In Liberia, the two ETUs we built (in Bong and Margibi), which are now managed by International Medical Corps (IMC), continue to treat patients in isolation wards and provide expert medical care and treatment. In Margibi, our two CCCs (in Dolo Town and Worhn) help contain transmission. We continue to train community health workers and traditional 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 and helped identify foster families to care for children. New developments include:
In Sierra Leone, Save the Children continues to manage the 92-bed Ebola Treatment Unit in Kerry Town with over 500 frontline medical staff and provide staff in primary health clinics with supplies and training for infection prevention and control. Our staff has led the scaling up of child registration and family tracing and reunification activities. We also provide psychosocial counselling and reunification packages, including food and clothing, to children who return to their families or to an alternative caregiver and secure financial support, as well as toys, clothes and food, to interim care centers for unaccompanied and orphaned children. New developments include:
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; support community health workers with contact tracing; provide protection kits (soap and other supplies) to health centers, schools, public services and transportation stations; and provide psychosocial, nutritional and social support for children whose families have been affected by Ebola. New developments include:
In Mali, we continue to support contact tracing following the six cases of Ebola here. We trained our staff to implement infection prevention and control, and procured protective and sanitation equipment for health centers and other public facilities. Community-focused messages for media, health workers, schools and other community stakeholders will be translated into local languages and disseminated.
More About the Ebola Outbreak
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.
The Impact on Children and Families
Children are always among the most vulnerable in an emergency. Across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, an estimated 10.3 million children and adolescents under age 18 are directly or indirectly affected.
Children and their families, whether infected or affected, are being exposed to extreme distress due to loss, family separation, isolation and overall disruption of society. Confinement to homes, seeing health workers dressed in protective gear and witnessing the suffering of family members are especially frightening to children. Stigma and fear within communities further contributes to isolation of children whose families are directly affected by Ebola.
Children who are unaccompanied or separated from families when caregivers are admitted to treatment centers, when they themselves are admitted, and when they become orphaned are at increased risk of psychosocial distress and exploitation. They are in urgent need of support, including family tracing, reunification and reintegration, alternative care, psychosocial support and assistance in meeting day-to- day needs. According to the United Nations, there are at least 3,700 children who have lost one or more of their parents to Ebola since the start of the crisis.
We are also deeply concerned about children's access to health care and their nutrition. Already weak health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are collapsing under the strain of the outbreak; the closing of health facilities has left many communities without access to medical care for common, treatable illnesses, immunizations and maternal and reproductive health care. As a result, Ebola is reversing considerable gains that had been made in recent years, especially in Liberia, to curb maternal and child deaths.
According to USAID's Famine Early Warning Systems Network, a major food crisis may occur in West Africa if the number of Ebola cases continues to rise. Families who have been unable to plant crops are at risk of losing income and face greater food insecurity, as food prices are rising thereby putting children at greater risk of hunger and malnutrition.
School closures are impacting children's education as they lose out on critical months of learning. UNICEF estimates that more than 4 million children across the affected region will be impacted by school closures as a result of the Ebola outbreak. We know from other crises that once children are out of school, many never return and instead become at risk of child labor or other exploitative situations.
Last Update December 15, 2014