For two years Ebola has drastically ravaged three West African countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – and has taken the lives of 11,300 people according to the Guardian UK. Over 28,000 people were diagnosed with Ebola and still live with the pain and stigma of the disease. Since Liberia has not reported a single Ebola case in 42 days, the World Health Organization officially declared an end to the Ebola epidemic. Sierra Leone and Guinea have already been declared Ebola-free with 90 days of no new reported cases. However, just last week another Ebola case was discovered in Sierra Leone in the death of a 22-year-old woman, causing an outbreak of at least 100 people. Twenty-eight people have been quaratined.
Ebola is on the run: the number of cases dipped below 10 a week recently, and a few days ago investigators announced in the prestigious journal The Lancet that a new Ebola vaccine was “100% effective.”
In response, global health authorities are starting to sound a little giddy. “We believe that the world is on the verge of an efficacious Ebola vaccine,” said Marie Paule Kieny, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) assistant director-general for health systems and innovation (and an author on the study). “It could be a game changer.”
In January I wrote that I would be looking closely at the effect of Ebola on maternal health and mortality in the Ebola-affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Today unfortunate news was released by the World Bank and The Lancet.
According to the new report, Health-care worker mortality and the legacy of the Ebola epidemic and New Wave of Deaths From Ebola?: The Impact of Health Care Worker Mortality (PDF), it is estimated that 4,022 more women will die during childbirth in these countries on top of their already high maternal mortality rate due to the deaths of 240 health workers (doctors, nurses, and midwives) collectively across all three countries. Liberia lost the most health workers at 83. Guinea lost 78 and Sierra Leone lost 79 health workers. That translates to an increase of maternal deaths by 38% in Guinea, 74% in Sierra Leone, and 111% in Liberia. Due to the nature of health work a disproportionate rate of health workers died during the Ebola epidemic as opposed to the general population. Those health workers, of course, were critical to the health systems in all three countries whose systems were already on troubled ground before Ebola ravaged west Africa.
This week we will collaborate with Save the Children and Children Inspire Design on two important awareness raising and fundraising events.
#EndEbola Twitter Chat
Join us this Wednesday when we join Save the Children and their Liberia Country Director, Greg Duly. We will discuss the state of the Ebola crisis in Liberia and how it is steadily becoming under control. We will also discuss how Ebola has affected women, children, and entire families.
When: WEDNESDAY, April 1, 2015
What: Twitter chat with Save the Children (@SavetheChildren) and its Liberia Country Director Greg Duly (@greg_duly)
Why: We will discuss the current state of the Ebola caseload in Liberia as well as Ebola’s effects on women, children, and families.
Want to spread the word? Share this tweet.
In September 2014 the Centers for Disease Control along with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health studied traditional burials in order to create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for safe and dignified burials for those who die from Ebola. As of October 2014, a SOP for safe, dignified medical burials was approved and released by the Sierra Leone National Emergency Operations Center. This is a far cry from the insistence upon cremation by the Liberian government in the summer of last year.
As of January 2015, 2500 people have died from Ebola in Sierra Leone. Today when someone dies from Ebola, families have a greater chance of their loved one being buried with dignity without having to touch the deceased who are highly infectious.
Below are photos of an IFRC (International Federation of Red Cross) team removing a body of a young man on December 24, 2014 who was suspected of having Ebola. His family held a small ceremony in the young man’s memory. The body was then driven to the cemetery where it was buried based on the standard operating procedure created in October 2014.
As part of the Western Aera Surge Operation in Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society is undertaking safe and dignified burials ensuring that those who have died from the disease are treated with respect, while also ensuring the safety of communities. This is critical work, often performed by volunteers, and undertaken at the most dangerous time. Volunteers must wear full personal protective equipment and work in teams of seven.