Responding to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

Amref Health Africa's Response to Ebola

An epidemic of the Ebola virus continues in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The World Health Organization has declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency of international concern; the most severe in recorded history regarding both the number of human cases and fatalities.


A long-term, sustainable approach to health systems strengthening is vital to the ability to manage catastrophic events such as the Ebola epidemic the world is witnessing right now.  Unfortunately, the epidemic is occurring in some of the most underserved, resource-poor countries of Africa that are ill prepared to cope with this event in terms of available health workers, health facilities and prevention education.  In fact these underserved areas are chronically challenged by a constant lack of resources and a dearth of health workers capable of addressing even the most rudimentary health challenges. 


Most of Amref Health Africa’s efforts focus on building the capacity of Africa’s health systems to respond to the need for access to basic and quality health care.  We believe the key to lasting health change resides in robust health systems that are equipped with the human resources and infrastructure to improve access and quality of health care for all Africans.  To help strengthen health systems, we work together with Ministries of Health to advise on and implement national health strategies, identify gaps in health delivery and train health workers at all levels with the most innovative methodologies available.
In addition to our health systems strengthening across Africa that helps prevent epidemics, we are currently deploying resources in West Africa where we have a regional hub and in working with Kenyan authorities to ensure the outbreak does not reach East Africa.   
Closer to the epicenter, our West Africa hub in Senegal reports no cases there yet.  According to our Country Director, Dr Mor Ngom, we are preparing to support an Ebola awareness campaign in two regions bordering on Guinea where we are currently running projects.  Dr Ngom is in constant communication with the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Dakar and in Guinea, where a school health programme was launched earlier this year but halted when the Ebola virus struck in March 2014.
Amref Health Africa’s concerns are for affected communities, for its staff and dependents, and for the health workers. Using our experiences garnered during the two Ebola epidemics of 2000 and 2012 in Uganda, Amref Health Africa has agreed to support the Ministries of Health and other stakeholders in the following areas:
  • Implementation of Ministry of Health Contingency Plans through participation in coordination meetings and emergency committees at national and local levels
  • Cross-border surveillance
  • Protection of staff (MOH and other health workers, and Amref Health Africa)
  • Training of health providers in infection prevention and control. This includes providing guidelines on specimen collection, storage and transportation for safe delivery of samples to reference laboratories for confirmation
  • Controlling the epidemic through early detection, isolation, treatment of new infection, and contact training, including safe handling of body fluids and the remains of those who die
  • Counselling for Ebola survivors and their relatives
  • Psychosocial support to fight stigma
  • Counselling and psychological support for health care providers
  • Community awareness through community village leaders, working alongside village health teams
Regarding a potential Ebola crisis in Kenya, Amref Health Africa is part of a multi-agency task force set up by the Kenyan Ministry of Health to continually assess and advise on any response.  
Further updates will be posted as received.

About Ebola

Ebola is one of a group of viral haemorrhagic fevers which in Africa include Lassa Fever, Rift Valley Fever, Marburg and Ebola, Crimean-Congo and Yellow Fever, each transmitted through various specific routes. The natural reservoir of Ebola is most likely wild fruit bats; humans may contract the virus directly from infected bats, or secondarily from bush animals that are infected by bats.  Human-to-human infection is sustained when people come into contact with blood or other bodily fluids (urine, sweat, vomit) from infected people. Outbreaks of Ebola have been reported in various countries over the last 20 years including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Sudan.

Infected patients require highly supportive care. The fatality rate is very high, up to 90 percent, and no licensed treatment or vaccine is available.

The current outbreak of Ebola in West Arica was confirmed in Guinea on March 21, 2014, and spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The countries affected by the current epidemic have put in place Contingency Plans that involve partners and various strategies including surveillance at ports of entry, in health facilities and in the communities; laboratory confirmation and case management; infection prevention and control; advocacy, communication and social mobilization; coordination and resource mobilization. In support of the above, various documents are being strengthened and disseminated including information sheets for health workers and the public, port of entry screening tools, infection control guidelines, and disease surveillance and response tools.

For the latest information, please visit the World Health Organization’s special web section on the Ebola outbreak.