The Future is Equal

Ebola crisis spreads

As the Ebola crisis spreads, here’s how you can make a difference.

As the Ebola crisis spreads, here’s how you can make a difference.

Officials have quarantined many areas to try and stem the spread of a deadly virus that has already claimed the lives of almost half the people infected.

How severe is the problem now?

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates there could be as many as 1.4 million cases of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone by late January. The disease, for which there is no approved vaccine, has already struck more than 7,400 people and killed more than 3,400 of them. In this current outbreak, about one out of every two people infected with the virus has died. Infection rates are doubling every 20 days and the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that we could have 10,000 new cases a week by December.

“The need to break the spread of Ebola is absolutely key,” said David MacDonald, the regional head for Oxfam’s response. “Right now, infection rates are accelerating and we have no option but to rapidly increase our work. Ebola is consuming whole communities. We are seeing them absolutely torn apart as a result of the disease.”

The outbreak started in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, and cases have spread to Nigeria and Senegal. The UN says it will need $1 billion to stop the continued spread of the disease.

This is an extraordinary humanitarian crisis, which is exacerbated by poor infrastructure and response capacity in the West Africa countries who are at the centre of the epidemic. And the cost in lives will continue to rise dramatically without urgent and significant support from the international community.

What’s Oxfam doing about the Ebola outbreak?

As the largest Ebola outbreak in history continues to terrorise West Africa and the first cases of the deadly disease have been diagnosed in the US and in Spain, Oxfam is planning to triple support for its prevention programmes in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, Gambia, and Guinea Bissau. We also aim to help 5.7 million people at risk of catching the virus.

Oxfam will increase its supplies of water and hygiene materials to Ebola treatments centres and community care centres while expanding its public information campaign. Because the disease spreads through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, careful hygiene and avoidance of contact with those fluids is essential. Along with water pipes and tanks for treatment and isolation units, Oxfam will continue to provide protective equipment including face masks, boots, gloves, chlorine, soap, hand sanitiser, mops and aprons to teams that treat patients and to others that bury the dead.

Oxfam will also continue to distribute hygiene kits that include soap and bleach to people living in vulnerable areas and to build hand-washing pumps. In addition, we are supporting a poster campaign with prevention messages in markets schools and other public places as well as broadcasting radio programs with information on how to avoid catching Ebola and what to do if it spreads into a new community.

Where does the disease come from?

The world has known about the disease since 1976 when it was discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo near the Ebola River. Scientists believe that bats are the most likely carriers of the Ebola virus. And while sporadic outbreaks and cases have occurred in places such as Uganda, DRC, South Sudan, and Gabon, the current crisis — hitting several countries at once — is the world’s first Ebola epidemic.