By Rebekah Kates Lemke
CRS programming will be increased in the West African countries hit hardest by Ebola as the disease continues to spread.
In March, an outbreak of Ebola was confirmed in the forest region of Guinea. It spread into Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.
The World Health Organization has declared Ebola a public heath emergency of international concern.
Liberia and Sierra Leone have declared States of Emergency. Measures include placing all non-essential government staff on 30-day compulsory leave, closing schools, quarantining heavily infected communities, banning public gatherings (except Ebola education) and increasing surveillance at airports.
Ebola transmission is continuing in many parts of Guinea, and is accelerating in Liberia, with cases more than doubling in the 16-day period from July 23 to Aug. 9.
Br. Patrick Nshamdze, the Director of Catholic Hospital in Liberia and CRS Liberia’s direct point of contact in the personal protective equipment distribution to the Catholic Hospital and the health center located in the same compound, died of Ebola on August 2.
The spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone also continues. Cases continue to rise steadily in Kailahun and Kenema (epicenters) with up to 15 new cases identified in Kenema district daily. Bo district and Port Loko district appear to be newly emerging hot spots and require further attention and resources.
Following the arrival in late July of a Liberian national who was suffering from Ebola, there have been an additional 12 cases of Ebola in Nigeria, including one additional death. All cases to date have been among primary contacts, health care workers or airport personnel. No new cases have been reported since the first week of August.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) have announced the deployment of a disaster assistance response team to the affected countries. Through the use of additional private funds, CRS programming in affected countries will be scaled up. CRS has allocated an additional $376,444 to prevention, preparedness and management activities in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana. Key activities include training and support of community volunteers and religious leaders, household visits, radio programs and hygiene kits. In addition, CRS will support the production of awareness and prevention information for dissemination by the Ghanaian Ministry of Health.
Every country in the West Africa region has appointed a country Ebola point person. Key resources regarding Ebola have been shared. Staff awareness meetings were held during the first half of August in Benin and Ghana.