Fighting the Ebola epidemic in West Africa

Completed

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been working in West Africa since late March 2014, fighting the Ebola epidemic and endeavouring to stop the virus from spreading further. MSF manages six treatment centres in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, working closely with the health ministries of the affected countries and with the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Cartier Charitable Foundation supports MSF in this emergency intervention as it cares for patients affected by the Ebola virus and implements measures to control the epidemic.

Duration
2014-2016
Focus area
Emergency Response
country
Guinea Conakry Liberia Sierra Leone
partner
Médecins Sans Frontières

Context

An epidemic of the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus – the most dangerous in existence – was confirmed in Guinea late March 2014. It spread rapidly to the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia, and cases have also been confirmed in Nigeria and Senegal. It is the first time West Africa’s populations have been hit by this haemorrhagic fever. 
MSF has intervened in most of the Ebola fever outbreaks recorded in Africa in recent years, building up considerable expertise in responding to haemorrhagic fevers. MSF’s teams therefore intervened as soon as this epidemic was confirmed, supporting the countries affected, treating the sick and endeavouring to contain the spread of the virus.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 13,700 cases of Ebola, including 4,913 deaths, have been reported since the start of the epidemic (figures as at 29/10/2014). Given the unprecedented scale of this outbreak, MSF has repeatedly called for the massive and immediate deployment of resources on the ground and the mobilisation of all local and international players.

Action

As soon as the first patients were confirmed in Guinea, MSF’s Swiss and Belgian sections launched an emergency intervention to try to contain the epidemic. MSF has since expanded its activities to the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.

1. Providing medical care to patients infected with the Ebola virus

MSF teams are present in the countries affected by Ebola – in Guinea (Guéckédou and Conakry), Sierra Leone (Kailahun and Bo) and Liberia (Monrovia and Foya). They are running six Ebola treatment centres offering nearly 600 beds. More than 3,000 doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, psychologists, health promoters, administrators, logistics specialists and medical technicians are working closely with the health ministries of the countries affected and the WHO. 
Since the start of the epidemic, MSF has already admitted more than 5,200 patients to its treatment centres, of whom 3,200 have tested positive for Ebola; 1,200 patients have recovered (figures as at 29/10/2014). 
MSF teams are involved in patient care and are working to contain the spread of the Ebola virus:

  • Treating the symptoms of the illness and offering palliative care to patients in accordance with their needs.
  • Offering psychological support to patients and their families.
  • Going into communities to identify people presenting symptoms of the illness and referring them to isolation and treatment facilities.
  • Providing trained health promoters to raise awareness of how the virus is transmitted and the preventive measures needed to stop it spreading – mainly via confidential interviews.

2. Addressing the devastating impact on local healthcare systems

In the countries affected by the Ebola outbreak, medical infrastructures have either closed down or are being deserted by local people who are too frightened to seek medical advice. As a result people are dying not just of Ebola but also of easily treatable diseases like malaria and diarrhoea. This is an emergency within an emergency.

Expected results

Caring for individuals affected by the Ebola virus in MSF treatment centres, implementing awareness-raising initiatives to control and contain the spread of the epidemic, and supporting the national healthcare systems of the countries affected.

Long-term strategy

MSF teams will continue their work of fighting the Ebola virus until the end of 2014 and in all probability beyond that – with the aim of supporting the countries affected by the epidemic as they rebuild their healthcare systems.

The latest news

  • Responding to the Ebola outbreak
    To respond to an unprecedented health emergency and enable those affected to access essential healthcare, the Cartier Charitable Foundation is supporting Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders with a CHF 200,000 grant.