What is Ebola?
Ebola is a severe and often fatal virus in humans and nonhuman primates. It is characterized by high fever and severe external and internal bleeding, and is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids such as blood, vomit, sweat and saliva. To be diagnosed with the disease one must have a fever of at least 101.5 degrees, and one or more of these additional symptoms: severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or unexplained hemorrhage. Symptoms occur 8-10 days after having been exposed to the virus. There are currently no drugs or vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat or prevent Ebola.
What is the extent of the current outbreak?
The 2014 outbreak of Ebola is the largest in history, and the first in West Africa. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were hit the hardest by the outbreak. Over 8,600 people have died from the disease since the first reported case in March 2014, and over 21,000 cases have been reported. According to UNICEF, about 11,000 children in West Africa have lost one or both parents to the virus, and many face stigma and rejection by extended family members not willing to care for them, fearing they will contract the disease themselves.
Although the outbreak may be slowing down the aftermath of the disease continues to destroy communities, especially children that are now without parents.
What is SOS Children’s Villages doing to fight Ebola?
SOS Children’s Villages is present in all countries affected by Ebola, and has launched awareness campaigns to inform children, families and local communities of methods to prevent contamination and detect early symptoms. Although the rate of Ebola infections is declining, SOS Children’s Villages continues to provide care to affected children and families.
In Ebola-affected countries, like Guinea, SOS Children’s Villages has put the following preventative measures in place:
- Established policy of constant use of chlorine, gloves and hand sanitizers within SOS Villages and programs
- Closed SOS Children’s Villages schools at the height of the outreach to protect children and staff. Schools reopened on January 19, 2015 but preventative measures are still in place
- Restricted access to the Villages to prevent contamination
We operate a medical center in Monrovia, Liberia which is open 24/7 and is one of the only health facilities in the city still open to the public. The center does not provide Ebola case management, but quarantine mechanisms are in place for suspected cases. Doctors and nurses are treating over 50 patients a day. Many patients are rejected from health care facilities due to an overwhelming fear of the Ebola virus; our clinic is focused on treating all who need care.
SOS Children’s Villages also supports an Interim Care Center that provides care to children who have lost their parents. The organization is working in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other nonprofit organizations.
In Sierra Leone, SOS Children’s Villages has provided basic food items and medical supplies to affected children and families. Although schools continue to be closed, SOS Children’s Villages is providing “home study” materials to children and youth at SOS on a regular basis to assist with their studies until schools reopen.