27 OCT 2014
Mistrust and confusion are allowing Ebola to thrive in West Africa
The unprecedented outbreak of Ebola has sparked suspicion and fear across the globe, with sensational headlines and governments imposing travel restrictions and quarantine periods. Oxfam warns that mistrust, rumours and myths about the origin and spread of Ebola are allowing the disease to thrive, and is working with communities in Liberia and Sierra Leone to try to prevent the spread of the disease.
Months after the outbreak began, health workers trained by Oxfam say some people in rural areas of Sierra Leone are still hiding sick relatives at home. Oxfam’s work with local communities in West Africa has highlighted the need for more to be done to listen to people’s fears and convince people that there are ways to stop the spread of this terrifying disease. Where messages about Ebola are getting through, people are able to act to prevent the further spread of the disease.
Oxfam understands the critical importance of isolation and treatment of Ebola cases but believes that prevention is also critical and needs more funding. Analyses of previous outbreaks of Ebola, including from the World Health Organisation, have shown that establishing relationships of trust and confidence with affected communities and involving community and religious leaders as well as respected individuals are fundamental to a successful response.
The number of Ebola cases, and suspected Ebola cases, has now exceeded 10,000 and the outbreak has claimed almost 5,000 lives, almost all of them in these three West African countries. The World Health Organisation has put the death rate from this outbreak at 70% and has warned that there could be 10,000 new cases a week in West Africa by December.
Oxfam is building on local efforts to increase public awareness by boosting its mass public information campaign over the radio, billboards and text messages about how people can best protect themselves from catching the disease. It is also training and working with community health workers to spread the word about Ebola prevention. The aid agency has stepped up its water and sanitation supply to Ebola treatment centres and community care centres, and its supply of hygiene materials, like soap and bleach, in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is supplying personal protective clothing for front line community health workers and burial teams.
The aid agency plans to spend US$35 million to scale up its programmes and reach more than 4 million people across the two countries but urgently needs more funds.
Oxfam is a worldwide development organisation that mobilises the power of people against poverty
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Photo: Tommy Trenchard / Oxfam Community Health Workers Alima Jamboria and Aminatta Fofanah educating people about Ebola.
Photo: Tommy Trenchard / Oxfam Chlorine is refilled from an Oxfam water system every few hours at Rokupa Isolation Centre. Rokupa used to be a normal hospital but with the help of Oxfam it has been converted into an isolation centre. Oxfam provided water tanks and pipes, a generator, an incinerator for soiled clothing, replaced the windows, cleaned the well and installed a hand pump.