in Liberia

“Ebola is winning.” Liberia appeals for urgent help battling the disease that has West Africa under siege

 
Liberia’s defence minister, Brownie Samukai, told the UN Security Council this week that Ebola is “spreading like wildfire”. The international response so far has been slow and inadequate.

In the past few days, there have been promises of help from the UK, USA and EU, and US$50 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But Liberian groups are worried that the help will take too long to arrive on the ground in Liberia.

“The crisis has brought Liberia to the verge of collapse,” says a statement issued yesterday, signed by 45 groups in Liberia and 30 international groups, calling for urgent international help.

The Liberian CSO Taskforce on Ebola, FERN, Friends of the Earth International and Global Witness issued a press release yesterday about the Ebola crisis in Liberia.

CIFOR has set up a webpage looking at the links between Ebola and bushmeat in Africa.

Outbreaks of Ebola may worsen as a result of both climate change and deforestation. Research published in 2006 in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, looked at wildlife deaths from Ebola. The research found that,

“Illness and deaths among animals were most prevalent during periods of prolonged drought-like conditions in the rainforest, which indicates that severe environmental stress may facilitate disease transmission.”

More recently, data from NASA shows that Ebola outbreaks correlate with heavy rains at the end of a very dry period. Writing in Yale360, science journalist Sonia Shah, explains that,

Extremely dry conditions force some fruit trees to defer fruiting. When the rains come and the stricken trees put out fruit, all manner of fruit-starved species, including Pteropus bats and apes, gather to feast. Large numbers of creatures concentrated under newly fruit-heavy trees provide microbes such as Ebola a prime opportunity to jump from one species to another. And once Ebola starts circulating heavily in a new species such as apes or bats, it can readily be transmitted through infected blood and other fluids to humans.

Meanwhile, deforestation is increasing the contact between between bats, apes and humans.

Here’s the press release about the Ebola crisis in Liberia:

“Ebola is winning.” Liberia appeals for urgent help battling the disease that has West Africa under siege

Information about how to help is included at the bottom of this page.

Liberian campaigners say the international response to the Ebola outbreak has been desperately slow, and today launched an appeal for massively ramped-up, on-the-ground help to tackle the disease that is sweeping their nation with unprecedented speed.

“Our hospitals are over-run and under-staffed, fear and panic is sparking violence. Our borders are shut and ships are avoiding our ports. We are running out of food, supplies, everything,” said Oscar Bloh, who is coordinating the response of Liberian civil society groups, the CSO Ebola Taskforce. “This is the worst ever outbreak of one of the world’s deadliest diseases and we cannot tackle this alone. We urgently need far more help to halt the Ebola epidemic before it spreads further.”

After months of inaction, in recent days a number of donor pledges have finally been made, but Liberian groups fear that it will take too long for government promises to translate to hands-on help. The CSO Ebola Taskforce and international groups have issued a public statement calling on wealthy countries and international organisations like the UN to accelerate the deployment of much-needed resources aimed at stemming what is both an international health crisis and a threat to regional peace and security.

More than 870 people are believed to have died from the current epidemic in Liberia, with hundreds more deaths in nearby Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.[1] Many hospital workers are striking or have abandoned their clinics, relief workers are ill-equipped to contain the virus, and communities lack basic preventative measures like clean water and soap.[2]

Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, is on the frontline of Liberia’s battle with Ebola. But limits on resources mean that its operations are stretched, with only five case management centres and around 400 beds across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Liberia’s Red Cross says that Monrovia’s crematorium is turning away infectious dead bodies for lack of space.[3] Outside the capital hundreds of potentially infected people have little choice but to stay at home as they live out of reach of healthcare, posing a threat to their families. Very simple measures could help contain the spread of the disease in remote areas – often rural communities don’t know what Ebola is or how it travels, and many lack access to clean water or disinfectants.

Liberian NGOs are calling for significant medical, financial and logistical support in the form of:

  • On-the-ground expert help, including specialists in infectious diseases and disaster relief.
  • Quarantine facilities, protective clothing and equipment, ambulances and helicopters to transport suspected victims and bodies.
  • Logistical and financial support to ensure that food, clean water and power reaches people who need it, including remote and quarantined communities.
  • The UN Mission in Liberia to assist national security forces to help suppress riots and maintain peace in an orderly, non-violent manner.
  • Support scaling up community education and sanitisation efforts that could help limit the spread of the virus.
  • Re-instating flights in and out of Ebola-affected countries to ensure that supplies are delivered without delays.

“This disease has us under siege,” said Oscar Bloh. “It feeds on inaction, and it is winning. The donor community has a poor track record when it comes to turning pledges into swift action. We may now have political will on our side, but we can’t fight Ebola without the right weapons, the right armour and an army of experts to defeat it.”

Anyone can help:

Please donate to Liberia’s Community Awareness and Support Team, who are reaching out to rural communities that are off communications radars and at the end of difficult roads, providing cleaning products and educational materials.

For additional information:

Liberian CSO Task Force on Ebola:
Oscar Bloh; oscarbloh2004@yahoo.com; +231 (0) 886 554 109.
Silas Siakor; sksiakor2005@gmail.com; +233 548 721100.

FERN:
Mark Olden; mark@fern.org; +44 (0)7973 884 718.

Friends of the Earth International:
Kirtana Chandrasekaran; kirtana.chandrasekaran@foe.co.uk; +91 98400 75565.

Global Witness:
Alice Harrison; aharrison@globalwitness.org; +44 (0)7841 338792.


Notes:
[1] World Health Organisation (2014) Ebola virus disease outbreak – West Africa. Disease Outbreak news 8 September 2014.
[2] Frontpage Africa (2014) JFK Workers Demand Incentives, PPEs in Renewed Protest.
[3] Al Jazeera (2014) Liberia overwhelmed by number of Ebola dead.

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  1. Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor and Nora Bowier have written an Op-Ed in the New York Times about the feeble international response to the spread of the Ebola virus:

    Liberia has been hardest hit by the epidemic. So far the country has counted 1,224 likely Ebola deaths, of which 508 have been confirmed by laboratory testing. Most of its hospitals have either closed or are barely functioning. In Bong County, in the north, the two largest hospitals have been shuttered, leaving over 330,000 people without health care. As foreign staff depart, borders close and the last planes leave, it seems that the world intends to cut us off and allow us to die.