The deadliest outbreak of the Ebola virus in recorded history is gripping West Africa, and countries affected are now struggling to contain the outbreak.
In the worst affected countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – the virus has hit densely populated urban areas as well as the remote countryside, and is now spreading at an exponential rate.
Our partner Monsignor Robert Vitillo is in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. He said:
“Many hospitals and clinics are closed, so it is very difficult to get medical treatment for other diseases. Some people die in the streets looking for medical treatment for infection or for a whole host of other diseases.
“Schools and many government offices are closed. This means that families do not have enough income to provide food and other necessities. Health workers – doctors, nurses, and others – are afraid to go back to work.”
Providing information and education about how Ebola spreads and how to prevent infection is at the heart of our partners’ current response. We have spent more than £100,000 supporting their work across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. We are now looking to scale up support in the areas of treatment, isolation and safe burials.
Our response to the Ebola virus
The outbreak of Ebola started in Guinea in early April. It quickly spread from communities in Macenta, Guéckédou and Kissidougou to the capital, Conakry.
Our partner Caritas Guinea worked in remote villages, slums and towns to teach people about good hygiene and hand-washing as a way to halt the disease. Across four dioceses, Caritas Guinea provided soap and chlorine, which are effective at killing the virus, to more than 28,000 people.
We are supporting the work of three Caritas partners, Caritas Sierra Leone, Caritas Kenema and Caritas Makeni. All our partners are undertaking social mobilisation activities aimed at reducing entrenched traditional denial and stigmatisation associated with Ebola. Partners are working with established Church structures – parishes, priests, catechists, youth groups, Parish Pastoral Councils – particularly focussing on areas that government workers and other organisations are unable to reach.
“The biggest enemy is lack of understanding”
– Edward John-Bull, Director of Caritas Sierra Leone.
Our partners are launching a programme to provide food to quarantined families and to vulnerable and poor people who are now unable to earn a living, or who have lost the breadwinner in the family to the virus.
We will also work with partners on providing hygiene and sanitation kits for health clinics in local communities.
The Ebola virus has affected 13 of the country’s 15 districts, including the capital Monrovia. There is still fear and a lack of understanding about preventive measures. Communities need to be encouraged to understand better the need to quarantine suspected patients.
We are supporting the public awareness work of Caritas Gbarnga, through Church structures, in the North-Central areas of the country.