International agency Oxfam is planning to triple its Ebola prevention program in Sierra Leone and needs at least $16 million to help 2.5 million people at risk of catching the disease, it said today at the donor conference in London.
It will be significantly stepping up its water and sanitation supply to Ebola treatment centers and community care centers, supply of hygiene materials and boosting its mass public information campaign.
Oxfam has already helped over half a million people by providing water supplies at treatment and isolation centers, hand washing facilities in community areas, hygiene kits to communities (soap, bleach etc), supplying of personal protective clothing for those front line community health workers and training of community health workers. The agency has also been running public information campaigns about how people can best protect themselves from catching the disease.
David MacDonald, the regional head for Oxfam response, said: “The need to break the spread of Ebola is absolutely key. Right now infection rates are accelerating and we have no option but to rapidly increase our work. We work on prevention to stop the disease spreading. We also need to think of the illnesses that are being ignored – treatable illnesses like diarrhea, malaria and cholera.
“Ebola is consuming whole communities. We are seeing them absolutely torn apart as a result of the disease. Many areas have been forced into quarantine – the streets are completely deserted.”
The agency is calling for a concerted international effort to stop Ebola and is calling for military logistical support.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there could be 1.4 million cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia by January 20, 2015. More than 6,500 people have been infected with Ebola, and over 3,000 have died.
The Ebola outbreak started in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia and cases have spread to Nigeria and Senegal. The UN says it needs nearly $1 billion to stop it spreading and so far only $345 million has been given.
Oxfam works in six districts in Sierra Leone, and is also boosting prevention programs in six urban areas in Monrovia, Liberia; Senegal; Gambia and Guinea Bissau.
As well as providing the pipes and tanks for the treatment and isolation units, Oxfam will also continue to provide protective equipment like face masks, boots, gloves, chlorine, soap, hand sanitizer, mops and aprons to teams that treat Ebola and teams that bury the dead. It will also continue to distribute hygiene kits to people in vulnerable areas and build hand-washing pumps.
Oxfam has started radio programs to spread messages about how to avoid catching Ebola and what to do if it spreads to your community.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has come at the worst possible time with farm workers unwilling to grow food and food becoming increasingly expensive in local markets.