Ebola epidemic in West Africa

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Our program

Between August 2014 and February 2016, Development and Peace committed $350,000 to support a short-term response to the Ebola crisis that aimed to contain the spread of the virus and mitigate the medium and long-term consequences of the outbreak on the economy, the social fabric and food security.

In Sierra Leone, for example, Development and Peace supported the humanitarian response of four partners, including the Sierra Leone Young Christian Students Movement (SLYCSM), Eastern Radio, the Justice and Peace Commission of Kenema and Caritas Sierra Leone.

In Liberia, Development and Peace supported Caritas Liberia in its response to the epidemic.

Ebola

Santini Tricket washes his hands at a stand of Caritas Sierra Leone, a partner of Development and Peace. The work of Caritas in Sierra Leone is focused on preventive measures aimed at curbing the spread of the Ebola virus. Photo Tommy Trenchard

The main strategy at the heart of our actions was to invest in effective social mobilization and foster the participation of all community structures needed in the struggle against the epidemic and its effects. The objectives of the projects were as follows: 

  • Improve the public's knowledge, attitude, and behaviours related to the prevention and transmission of Ebola.
  • Support food aid, and strengthen food security for families and small-scale farmers whose agricultural production were affected.
  • Contribute to the livelihoods of families affected by the crisis.
  • Rebuild social cohesion by strengthening ties between individuals, families, and community members, and by reducing the stigmatization of those affected.
  • Provide psychological support to people suffering from trauma related to death, migration, rejection or stigmatization caused by the disease.
  • Give particular attention to Ebola orphans and vulnerable children, and help them re-integrate into their families and communities.

 

The epidemic is over, but the impacts will be felt for many years to come

Although the crisis is over, we must continue to support communities that have been affected on many levels so they can resume a normal life while pursuing preventive measures. Development and Peace’s initiatives have a long-term perspective that seek to strengthen local assets so as to revitalize citizen action, particularly in Sierra Leone.

The situation

An Ebola hemorrhagic fever epidemic, the most serious of its kind ever known, hit Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia from 2013 to 2016. The response from the international community was considered insufficient and too slow. As of February 2015, the WHO reported 9,604 deaths and more than 23,500 cases of infection.

The characteristics of an unprecedented epidemic

The outbreak is the most extensive and longest in history, with its epicenter cutting across several countries and affecting both rural and urban areas. The spread of the disease was exacerbated by several factors: 

  • The affected countries were already weakened by coups, civil wars, cycles of profound political instability and poor economic policies;
  • Dysfunctional healthcare systems that lack human and material resources;
  • Distrust of government and health authorities, and international NGOs;
  • A lack of information,  fear in the face of an unknown disease and denial of the existence of the virus;
  • The stigmatization and isolation of those affected. People needed to give up direct physical contact and traditional funeral rites.

A health and social disaster

Beyond the health aspects related to infections and deaths, the Ebola virus, because of its mode of transmission, disrupted and paralyzed social interactions, social networks, family solidarity, and the practices, beliefs and social rituals that link people together.

Medical monitoring for chronic diseases was halted, as were treatments for tropical diseases and the monitoring of pregnancies. In addition, children were no longer receiving vaccinations. The production and distribution of goods, as well as ground transportation, were completely paralyzed, having an effect on food security and livelihoods.

On January 14, 2016, the World Health Organization officially announced the end of the Ebola epidemic, when transmission of the disease ended in Liberia, and the country was declared as the last to have eradicated the virus. The epidemic caused more than 11,000 deaths in West Africa.
News
April 7, 2015

The first time I heard about Sierra Leone, I was 14 or 15. I read an article about child soldiers who were fighting in the civil war. From the pictures I saw - children with guns, drugged and dismembered - it certainly did not appear “civil.” My heart broke. I couldn’t stay silent about this injustice so I wrote a paper for a high school project.

March 5, 2015

In response to the Ebola outbreak that is still ongoing in West Africa, Development and Peace is contributing an additional $100,000 to Caritas Sierra Leone’s humanitarian interventions.

January 14, 2015

Sierra Leone currently has the highest incidence of Ebola, with over 7,786 infections and 2,696 confirmed deaths (as of January 14, 2015). Beyond the immediate health crisis, there have also been concerns raised pertaining to the long term socio-economic impacts of the disease.

December 15, 2014

With a fatality rate of over 60%, the result of the current Ebola epidemic on the body is obvious. The psychological impact is less visible, but the virus is also breaking morale. It is generating fear and negatively impacting mental health.

A training with Caritas community health volunteers in Sierra Leone
November 17, 2014

The Ebola epidemic currently raging in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia is the largest, longest and most complex ever known. Its scope and exponential growth go beyond the highly lethal nature of the virus itself and are explained by the negative effects of poverty and inequality.

September 24, 2014

The Ebola virus, which has been officially declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Organization, is undermining weak healthcare systems in the three countries currently facing outbreaks, namely Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

September 19, 2014

The worst Ebola epidemic in history poses a real health challenge in three of the poorest countries in the world. In Liberia and in Sierra Leone, both of which recently emerged from civil wars, the epidemic also represents another serious obstacle to development because of its psychological, social and economic consequences.

August 26, 2014

Since viruses do not recognize borders, the Ebola virus disease has become a threat for several neighbouring West African countries. Adding to the difficulty of finding a transnational solution is the pressure of controlling a disease that has social, psychological and economic implications.

August 15, 2014

Development and Peace confirms its support for Caritas Sierra Leone in an effort to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus.

Pictures

Ebola Crisis West Africa 2015