Update on Ebola in Africa
by Waleed Fatth (GEI Global Programs Manager)
Every year has its share of significant world events. 2014 is no exception. From the rise of several crises worldwide to life-threatening incidents here and there, the past year left a number of ordeals that humanity has to address. Ebola is just one of those urgent matters that hopefully 2015 will be the year in which the Ebola virus is completely defeated. So what is happening with this virus and what is the current situation?
The latest World Health Organization (WHO) Situation Report states that newly reported cases in Guinea for the week to 11 January were the lowest they have been since August 2014. Case numbers remain low in Liberia, and Sierra Leone has now reported a decline in case incidence for the second week running which records its lowest weekly total of new confirmed cases since August 2014. These three countries in West Africa are still considered intense-transmission areas. With all the national and international efforts to control the Ebola virus, these countries managed by now to have sufficient capacity to isolate and treat patients and to bury all people known to have died from Ebola. However, the uneven geographical distribution of beds and cases, and the under-reporting of cases, means that not all the cases are isolated or buried safely in several areas.
Unfortunately the case fatality rate is 71% overall, but lower at around 60% for hospitalized patients who receive treatment in the three intense-transmission countries. From the 825 health-care worker infections that were reported in these countries; we have got sadly about 493 deaths.
In general, the current situation for Ebola is a mix between better and bad news. The mission for Ebola emergency response set the goal of putting capacity in place to treat and isolate 100% of Ebola cases, and conduct 100% of victim burials safely. This has not been done yet because many elements of the response rely on actively engaging affected communities to take ownership of the response. There has been a lot of work on community education and engagement continues, through door-to-door campaigns, establishment of community watch committees, and partnering with religious and community leaders throughout the three countries. Other elements that are essential to an Ebola response – such as awareness-raising and community acceptance, safe burials, contact tracing, alert and surveillance – are still lacking in some remote districts in these countries, especially in Sierra Leone.
Beyond the focus on priority countries in West Africa, significant efforts have been made worldwide to strengthen preparedness for Ebola or any similar disease. Assessments in several countries in all regions found that there are still significant needs related to building more capacity in risk communication and infection prevention and control. Here where we can help as individuals. Our contribution in GEI to the international efforts is through our long-term capacity development commitment in the developing countries. Our model does not just offer an opportunity for professionals around the world to gain essential skills and qualifications for their personal careers, but it also empowers individuals to take a leading position to make a real change in global issues and to promote for real active citizenship and new attitudes which will help humanity to have less crises and ordeals in the coming years. Think about it!