Ebola: a show of solidarity

August 15, 2014

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Friends and supporters have reached out to BRAC with concern and support. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, we have 907 full-time staff, and about as many self-employed community health promoters. Our staff is safe, though sadly, some of our microfinance clients are among the more than 1,000 who have died.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation will match all Ebola relief gifts to BRAC through Global Giving.

Photo: BRAC/Alison Wright

As The New York Times reported this week, the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa will soon eclipse all other previous outbreaks combined in terms of death toll. This map shows how the epidemic is spreading through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Friends and supporters have reached out to BRAC with concern and support. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, we have 907 full-time staff, and about as many self-employed community health promoters. Our staff is safe, though sadly, some of our microfinance clients are among the more than 1,000 who have died.

As a result of the severity of the situation, we have transitioned to a new phase of our Ebola campaign. Due to quarantines and restrictions on travel and group gatherings, most BRAC employees in these countries are now on paid leave, ready to resume activities when conditions allow. Expatriate workers, already limited in number, are returning to their homes in Bangladesh for one month.

ebola map

BRAC’s approach, wherever it operates, is to spread health awareness through person-to-person communication, especially through our frontline force of all-female community health promoters. Following an initial campaign, the Ebola crisis reached a point this month where widespread person-to-person contact was no longer advisable, especially given the states of emergencies in place in these countries.

Our work goes on, however. We continue to push out Ebola-related messaging that doesn’t require direct contact or group meetings. We are creating and broadcasting Ebola-related radio jingles, for instance. A core crew remains at country offices, supporting authorities in prevention efforts. We’ve donated items like soap and chlorine to health authorities. On August 13, BRAC Sierra Leone donated buckets with attached taps, surgical gloves, phenolic disinfectant, and face masks, to be directed by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to the most severely seriously affected areas.

BRAC Sierra Leone staff sending buckets, disinfectant, gloves and masks to the most severely affected areas

BRAC Sierra Leone staff sending buckets, disinfectant, gloves and masks to the most severely affected areas

Given the climate of fear, it’s important to remember that the biggest factor contributing to the rapid spread of Ebola is lack of basic information about how to prevent it. Funerary practices have been a huge factor. What saves lives, ultimately, is simple knowledge.

Along these lines, aided in part by donations from the public and small private foundations through BRAC USA, the immediate response included an outreach campaign by local community health promoters. They spread the word, aided by posters and flyers, about the steps people can take to stop the virus’s spread. Communities are better equipped to deal with health emergencies as a result.

We still require funding to continue our activities: Supporters can donate here.

BRAC staff salaries are covered from cash on hand, and management remains in constant contact with BRAC employees and health workers – the vast majority of whom are Sierra Leonean and Liberian – so they can step back into action as soon as conditions allow.

Above all, we wish for BRAC’s friends and supporters to express solidarity with those affected by this devastating illness.

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