The Paul G. Allen Ebola Program prides itself on fostering initiatives that have powerful potential for creating innovative solutions to global health crises. The program partners with infections disease leaders and practitioners worldwide, and draws from a myriad of resource and experts in Mr. Allen’s broader organization, Vulcan Inc.
The Seattle-based Paul G. Allen Ebola Program, a key part of Vulcan’s philanthropic initiatives, has been a catalyst for the global response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Last year Paul Allen pledged $100 million to the Ebola effort, the single largest private gift to fight the disease, and formed the Ebola Program to continue to address the significant gaps exposed by the Ebola outbreak, including awarding seven grants totaling $11 million, to organizations taking innovative approaches to tackling these gaps. Amref Health Africa and the program partnered early in 2015 to develop a new approach to halting the spread of the Ebola virus in Guinea against a background of miscommunication, rumor and a broken health system.
Project in Focus – Changing Behavior to End Ebola
Members of the community discuss Ebola at a round-table meeting (Photo: Amref Health Africa)
“I thank Amref Health Africa for bringing the local groups into the process of creating awareness around the Ebola virus, as not too long ago, you wouldn’t even dare to pronounce the word Ebola in many districts.”
Local woman’s group advocate, Coyah district, Guinea
The Ebola virus has claimed nearly 11,000 lives, destroyed the already weak health systems, and ruined economies of the three affected West African countries since the epidemic was declared in March 2014. In collaboration with aid organizations, the Guinean government, local leaders and others, Amref Health Africa is on forefront of the fight to end the Ebola epidemic in Guinea.
Our initial analysis in 2014 revealed a dire need for effective community engagement strategies that would dispel rumors and misinformation about the disease, quell violence, change behaviors such as traditional burial practices, and encourage people to seek health care. Consequently, we initiated interventions at the community level to effectively contribute to containing the epidemic and to look towards long-term solutions through strengthening the health system.
We launched an Ebola awareness and response program in two highly-affected districts in Guinea, Coyah and Forécariah, training 544 members of community-based organizations to help their communities understand and protect themselves against Ebola. We reached over 140,000 people through educational activities, advocacy meetings and round table discussions. These community stakeholders identified and referred 124 suspected Ebola cases to specialized and safe health services.
With support from the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program, we are now able to build on and grow these earlier successes. We expanded our effective community engagement programs into two additional, neighboring districts which account for 25% of the Ebola cases and survivors, but only 12.5% of the population of Guinea.
Our partnership continues to support the efforts of the Guinean government and others to ensure the lasting eradication of Ebola, rebuild trust between communities, the government and the health sector, strengthen health systems, improve health seeking behaviors, and encourage vaccine uptake. With the generous support of the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program, we will continue to focus on community engagement, infection measure and control, and treating the psychosocial impact of Ebola on survivors in the post-Ebola period.
“You are the first NGO that has come to tell us about Ebola and ask us for advice.”
Imam, Forécariah Center