Ebola: What Concern is doing and why

September 10, 2014
Photo by Kieran McConville

Concern has been working in the two countries hardest hit by this outbreak, Sierra Leone and Liberia, for over twenty years. We were able to quickly redeploy existing staff and resources to help stem the disease’s spread.

The Outbreak

In March 2014, a case of Ebola was confirmed in the West African country of Guinea. Since then, the disease has spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. A separate outbreak has also been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So far, over 5,000 people have been infected and more than 2,500 have died. The WHO warns that the disease is accelerating and could infect up to 20,000 before it is brought under control.

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What is Concern Doing to Help?

Education

concern-africa-ebola-education
Why we’re doing it: While no proven cure or vaccine exists, preventing Ebola transmission by following simple safety precautions saves lives. We are fighting an enormous amount of myth, fear and misinformation about Ebola, and arming people with the information they need to keep themselves safe.

Our activities:

  • Distributing crucial information via posters, leaflets, and radio
  • Training health care workers, Community Health Volunteers (CHVs), traditional birth attendants, village leaders, and traditional healers
  • Educating journalists on the media’s role in preventing Ebola
  • Tackling the many dangerous myths about Ebola
  • Addressing behaviors that put people at risk, like eating bush meat or washing the dead

Supporting health centers and burial teams

Family and friends pray over the body of Sulaiman Barrie (7)

Family and friends pray over the body of Sulaiman Barrie (7)

Why we’re doing it: The medical response doesn’t just require doctors: it requires supplies, logistics and funding. Currently, frontline personnel lack basic supplies like gloves. Our existing footprint in these countries means we’re well-positioned to deliver critical support.

Our activities:

  • Providing over 100 health centers with essential protective equipment, like aprons, gloves, and masks
  • Establishing hand washing and disinfecting stations in busy public places such as markets
  • Donating vehicles to burial teams; servicing ambulances
  • Supporting ambulance, surveillance, burial teams, and CHVs
  • Working with county health teams’ Ebola response; leading taskforce social mobilization strategies

Supporting government

Why We’re Doing It: We’re providing advice and support to key government agencies to ensure their response is as robust as possible.

Our activities:

  • Seconding staff to the Ministry of Health to support contact tracing
  • Providing technical and logistical advice and assistance at every level of governmental response, from local to district to national – wherever our expertise is needed most

Continuing existing programs

Why We’re Doing It: The impact of Ebola is much broader than the disease itself. Because of the enormous strain on the medical system, people are dying of preventable disease. Symptoms of common illnesses like malaria and typhoid are similar to those of Ebola, so patients are avoiding clinics for fear of being misdiagnosed. Pregnant women are also avoiding clinics thinking that they will contract the disease. Livelihoods, food security and education are also impacted. This is when our core programs are needed most and we are striving to keep them running where we can.

Our activities:

  • Where possible, continuing development work that promotes livelihood security and builds resilience at the household and community level
  • Where possible, continuing community health support through hygiene promotion, provision of clean water points and construction of latrines to prevent the transmission of not only Ebola but also other illnesses such as malaria and diarrhea that continue to threaten communities.

Why Concern?

We’ve Got History

Concern has been working in the two countries hardest hit by this outbreak, Sierra Leone and Liberia, for over twenty years. We were able to quickly redeploy existing staff and resources to help stem the disease’s spread. In addition, because of our longevity, we enjoy an unusual degree of access and trust at a time when many local people are suspicious of government officials and international NGO staff.

We Know Our Strengths

Concern is not a medical responder. What we do have is practical in-country knowledge and existing infrastructure. We’re using both of these to keep the medical response running by providing critical supplies and assisting with logistics. We’ve also got a strong background in social mobilization and awareness, so we’re using those skills to educate people about the disease and keep them safe, healthy and out of overloaded clinics.

concern-ebola-aid-worker
We’re Strategic

Concern strives to be the most effective responder. We think innovatively, and we’re targeting our funds and efforts where they’ll have the greatest impact. For example, we’re working with independent motorcycle taxi drivers in Liberia, called Pen-Pen riders. We’re educating them about the disease’s spread and providing them with hand-washing stations. Now both they and their patrons are learning about Ebola and using sanitation practices that stop its spread. This small, simple, cost-effective intervention has the power to keep tens of thousands of people safe from Ebola.

We’re Collaborative

We know that real change only happens when communities are engaged and involved. So we’re working with local groups – such as women’s leadership groups and community health volunteers – that already enjoy broad reach and trust among their communities. In this way we magnify our impact by making our resources go further.

We Get Things Done

Whether it’s fixing an ambulance, delivering gloves or building a latrine, Concern does whatever’s needed. In both Sierra Leone and Liberia, it’s not just the health systems that are failing. Infrastructure everywhere is under huge stress. Concern is contributing its skills, manpower and resources wherever they will have the largest impact.

Rashid Moloah of Concern Worldwide delivers part of a consignment of soap contributed by the Irish government.

Rashid Moloah of Concern Worldwide delivers part of a consignment of soap contributed by the Irish government.

We’re In It for the Long Haul

We were in Sierra Leone and Liberia before this outbreak and we’ll be there once it is brought under control. We’ll be helping restore devastated livelihoods and caring for the children orphaned by Ebola. Your support both helps us stop this disease and will drive crucial rebuilding, long after the cameras have stopped rolling.

Donate now to help us stop Ebola and save lives.