Ebola is spreading out of control in West Africa. Here’s what we can do about it

June 27, 2014 by

Community health worker, Rugiatu Benson conducts a health forum in Port Loko, Sierra Leone.

Community health worker Rugiatu Benson conducts a health forum in Port Loko, Sierra Leone. (BRAC/Jake Lyell, 2010)

Fears are rising in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea that the deadly Ebola virus is spreading out of control. I spoke to Tapan Karmakar, country representative of BRAC Sierra Leone. “People are now afraid,” he told me. Additional funding is needed for community health workers to reach remote areas.

To raise awareness and funds, BRAC USA has teamed up with actor Jeffrey Wright, whose Taia Peace Foundation assists rural communities in Sierra Leone.

Donate to the effort here. All funds raised in the next five days will go to the Sierra Leone campaign. 

“Minimal medical infrastructure exists where the Ebola virus is now active,” says Wright. “If these communities are to have a fighting chance in preventing further transmission, they will need serious material assistance from the outside and now.”

“BRAC is now distributing leaflets and posters in all six of the districts in Sierra Leone in which our health program operates,” including Kenema, the site of the latest outbreak, says BRAC’s Karmakar. Previously the virus had been concentrated mainly in Kailahun, near the border with Guinea, where the majority of deaths have occurred so far. Affecting Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African Ebola outbreak is considered the worst ever in terms of death toll and people affected. Within Sierra Leone, the epicenter of the epidemic has been the Koindu chiefdoms in the eastern district of Kailahun.

Here’s what we can do to stop the spread of Ebola:

Community health workers trained by BRAC are going door to door, educating people on how to stop Ebola in its tracks. Ebola is spread through human-to-human contact, including unsafe funerary practices. BRAC’s all-female frontline cadre of 400 community health promoters in Sierra Leone, who sell basic health goods and services to their neighbours, have already received refresher courses on community sensitization on Ebola.

BRAC has nearly 1,000 community health workers in Sierra Leone and Liberia. These self-employed women, embedded in their communities and hailing from the villages in which they work, are the best front-line defense against Ebola. 

These workers have already printed and distributed 2,000 leaflets so far. BRAC USA is sending emergency funding to distribute 10,000 more and to support a 15- to 20-day campaign by these local health entrepreneurs, assisting them with food and travel costs as they make their way into remoter areas.

Taia Peace Foundation, meanwhile, will contribute to the effort by distributing protective medical barriers (disposable gloves, masks, etc.) and chlorine for caregivers and those who have contact with the diseased and dead.

Donate to BRAC USA’s campaign here. 

Donate to Taia Peace Foundation here.

Thank you!