Decisive moment in fight against Ebola as time runs out

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8 August 2014: The battle against Ebola has entered a decisive moment says humanitarian organisation Plan International as the World Health Organization today declared the outbreak an international public health emergency demanding an “extraordinary” response.

“It is a welcome decision as time is fast running out. We are fighting a very difficult battle with Ebola,” said Dr Unni Krishnan, Plan’s Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response.

“The impact of Ebola now extends far beyond the boundaries of West Africa. The outbreak is not showing any signs of slowing down. Every available resource must be deployed to save hundreds of thousands of lives that are potentially at risk.”

Over 960 people have died in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria in the world’s worst Ebola outbreak to date. Liberia and Sierra Leone have declared a state of emergency. Seven other countries: Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger remain on high alert.

Emergency response

Plan is responding to the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and has intensified its preparedness and response efforts across the region.

“We have been working flat out on the ground for the past 4 months in supporting government to contain the spread of Ebola. Plan alone has dedicated 70 staff for frontline support across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The declaration of an international public health emergency by the WHO will bring focus and hopefully critical resources in turning the tide against the deadly disease,” said Berenger Berehoudougou, Plan’s Regional Manager in West Africa for Disaster Risk Management.

Deadly disease

The countries battling Ebola are among the poorest in the world with fragile health systems.
Porous borders have allowed infected people to spread the disease to new locations.

“The Ebola epidemic is a real disaster for Liberia which is still recovering from a long period of civil unrest. Ebola has spread fast in Liberia and is now affecting the capital city Monrovia where one third of the country’s population lives. The deadly disease has ruined many families and communities across the country,” said Koala Oumarou, Plan’s Country Director in Liberia.

Plan has mobilised over half a million US dollars for its Ebola response so far. The organisation is complementing local governments’ efforts, particularly in the area of public health information and providing material support to contain the spread of the disease.

Gross misjudgment

The Ebola response to date has been impacted by inadequate initial assessments and poor capacities of the health systems in the affected nations.

“There has been a gross misjudgment across the board in gauging the severity and scale of the damage that Ebola can unleash. If the international community does not rush to West Africa’s support immediately, we are looking at a dangerous scenario," said Adama Coulibaly, Plan’s Regional Director for Central and West Africa.

Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases known to mankind which spreads through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids. There is no vaccine or cure for the disease and it kills up to 90% of those infected.

Communities have witnessed horrific scenes of infected people dying with symptoms of severe bleeding.

Rumours are also rife on the ground making an already challenging response even more complicated. In some cases, local mobs have attacked health workers forcing emergency centres to close.

(Plan experts are available for media interviews.)

Editor’s notes:

  • Founded in 1937, Plan is one of the world’s oldest and largest children's development organisations. Plan works in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.
  • Plan has been working in Guinea since 1989, helping poor children to access their rights to education, health, sanitation and protection. The organisation has 34,000 sponsored children spread over 65 communities across the country.
  • Plan has been working in Sierra Leone since 1976, helping poor children to access their rights to education, health, livelihood, sanitation and protection. Plan’s programmes benefit 700,000 children in 1,126 communities across the country.
  • Plan has been working in Liberia since 1982. The organisation works in partnership with the communities and the government to ensure poor children have access to quality education, good health and adequate sanitation, and that they are well protected. The organisation has 12,250 sponsored children spread over 176 communities in its programme areas.
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