Ebola crisis poses humanitarian challenges

Ebola crisis in West Africa: Our response in pictures

The largest and longest Ebola outbreak in history has taken the lives of more people than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined. 

By Elisabeth Anderson Rapport

Dec 16 2014

According to the World Health Organisation's Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response Department on the Ebola Crisis, Rick Brennan, the crisis is responsible for 15,800 confirmed cases and 5,600 confirmed deaths. Unfortunately, those official figures are known to be an underestimate of the real totals.

Speaking last week with communications staffers of aid agencies that are part of the InterAction consortium, Mr. Brennan provided some good news: there is a decline in the rate of increase of the outbreak; in other words, the exponential rate of increase has decreased. This is due in part to the decrease in cases in densely populated areas, which comes thanks to better community mobilization and a scaled up response by governments and aid agencies. 

Still, this levelling off doesn't tell the full story. There are still locations where the rate is on the rise, the geographic spread of the disease remains wide, and neighbouring countries are at risk. A slew of experimental therapies and preventative vaccines are being developed, but none are yet ready for distribution at scale.

It's imperative for aid agencies like Action Against Hunger to stay vigilant in efforts to stop the spread of Ebola. The photos below shine a light on the efforts our dedicated staff members are making every day to fight this deadly disease, and showcase what our work is truly all about: the people we help.

Action Against Hunger responds to ebola crisis

Stephen Kpoto is a contact tracer: his job is to follow people who have been in contact with Ebola patients, for a period of 21 days, the incubation period of the virus. He has been tracing contact since July in the slums of West Point in Monrovia, Liberia, where about 75,000 people live. Each tracer visits 10 to 20 people per day. Photo: ACF-Liberia, A. Varraine-Leca

Action Against Hunger helps communities affected by ebola crisis

Mari oversees the team of contact tracers in West Point, Monvrovia, Liberia. She is calling an ambulance to pick up Francis Jey, A 20-month-old boy who had contact with a patient infected with Ebola. Photo: ACF-Liberia, A. Varraine-Leca

Though contact tracers like Stephen and Mari are working to prevent and contain the spread of the virus, fear still persists. Delivery rates at hospitals and health clinics in affected areas have dramatically decreased, because fewer people are traveling to hospitals for fear of being contaminated by Ebola. Rebecca, 38, is nine months pregnant. She is getting a prenatal check-up at a clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, but she plans to give birth in her home. Photo: ACF-Liberia, A. Varraine-Leca

Action Against Hunger experts help communities affected by ebola crisis

The virus itself isn’t the only cause for alarm. Crippled health systems, halted trade, volatile food prices, and reduced food production make it harder for parents to feed their children. An Action Against Hunger analysis showed that in the worst case, the number of people exposed to undernutrition will reach levels not seen for five or six years. According to this model, it is estimated that in 2015, at least 700,000 more people will be at risk of food insecurity in the three countries. At Slipway outpatient treatment program in Monrovia, Liberia, 70 children have already been treated for malnutrition, including the little girl pictured here. She was suffering from severe acute malnutrition when she was admitted. She’s gained weight, but is still moderately malnourished. If her treatment continues to go well, she will be healthy again in two weeks. Photo: ACF-Liberia, A. Varraine-Leca

Ebola crisis in West Africa. Action Against Hunger responds

 In Sierra Leone, the epidemic is seriously disrupting the availability and accessibility of food for the most vulnerable people. Though food production has been reduced, our ongoing food security programs are helping many families grow their own food. Yombo is a part of our home gardening program. Despite the constraints on food during the outbreak, Yombo told us, “I’m grateful for being part of Action Against Hunger’s food security program, especially during this period of crisis in the country. My family always has something to eat from the vegetable garden.” Photo: ACF-Sierra Leone, S. Morie Manyeh

Communities affected by Ebola crisis receive help from Action Against Hunger

Sierra Leone has now recorded over 5,500 confirmed Ebola cases — including Philippe and his family members. Philippe and his sisters contracted the virus and were treated at a health facility in Mombaya. In the near future, Philippe and his sisters plan to get involved in our social mobilization activities to help spare other families their pain. Though the number of survivors in Mombaya is growing, Philippe’s family and other affected families still face enormous challenges. Photo: ACF-Sierra Leone, I. Povatto 

Action Against Hunger supports families in Ebola-hit countries

Among those who are facing new challenges is Morris Sirleaf of Bomi County, Liberia. Maurice, a 40-year-old from George Mo Town, contracted the virus from his wife, who died on the way to the hospital. When he talked to us about going through treatment, he said, "You need to keep your mind free and take your medicines." He was released from an Ebola treatment centre in late November. Now a single parent, he does not know how he will provide for their five children. He has limited means, because his belongings were discarded as a part of disinfecting his home while he was in treatment, he is still too weak to return to work, and people in neighbouring communities are still afraid to do business with him. 

These photos show just a few of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the Ebola epidemic, and those who are working to end it. We will continue to work with families, communities, and local health agencies to overcome Ebola and its devastating effects.