With the President of Sierra Leone declaring a state of emergency over the largest Ebola outbreak in history, beginning in May 2014 AmeriCares has provided emergency shipments of preventive gear and medical supplies to help contain the spread of the deadly disease. It has been a priority to protect health workers who are especially vulnerable as the only line of defense against a virus that has no known cure.
In response to a 2012 cholera epidemic in the country, AmeriCares worked with the Ministry of Health to deliver emergency treatment supplies. Following our initial shipments and as part of our Global Cholera Preparedness Initiative in collaboration with icddr,b (International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research), our partner provided training for clinicians and lab technicians on disease treatment and control, sharply reducing the fatality rates.
Snapshot of Sierra Leone:
Sierra Leone, on the West African coast bordered by Guinea to the north and Liberia to south is recovering slowly from a decade long war that ended in 2002, a conflict that resulted in the death of tens of thousands and the displacement of more than 2 million people. Today, the 5.5 million people of Sierra Leone have an average life expectancy of 56 years. The population suffers from a heavy disease burden and some of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. Critical Health Issues:
- High infant and maternal mortality rates
- Malaria, respiratory infections, and diarrhea remain leading causes of death
- Neglected tropical diseases are common
In May 2014, AmeriCares first responded to an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has rapidly grown to become the largest in history. As the deadly disease claimed the lives of more than 60% of those infected, more emergency shipments have followed with particular emphasis on preventive gear to protect front line health workers, dozens of whom have died due to contact with the virus.
AmeriCares has committed to providing 12 months of infection prevention and control training for all health workers at two facilities: Bonthe Government Hospital and Mattru Hospital. This health worker and patient safety intervention will contribute to long-term health systems strengthening that will prepare Sierra Leone for future infectious disease outbreaks.
In July 2012, the president of Sierra Leone declared the cholera epidemic a “humanitarian crisis”, calling it one of the worst cholera outbreaks in recent history. By August 16th, the number of cholera cases nationwide had risen to nearly 11,000 with more than 170 fatalities. In response to the growing crisis:
- AmeriCares coordinated with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation as well as the WHO to deliver emergency cholera kits, containing medicines and supplies sufficient to treat 15,000 patients, including 5,000 with severe cholera
- icddr,b provided a train-the-trainer course in cholera case management (triage criteria, infection control and treatment guidelines) to 46 Ministry of Health clinicians from hardest hit districts in Sierra Leone
- icddr,b then conducted training sessions for laboratory technicians from all over the country focused on laboratory isolation, identification and characterization of microbes causing intestinal infections.
- Following distribution of supplies and multiple training sessions, case fatality rates decreased nationwide with significant decreases in the hardest hit districts (for example, 7.2% to 3.9% in Moyamba and 4.1% to 2.7% in Tonkolili following training).
Cholera Preparedness Initiative
AmeriCares, with global expertise in disaster relief and medical aid and icddr,b, the world leader in acute watery diarrhea management are using their combined experience to respond to diarrheal disease outbreaks around the world. This partnership, the Cholera Preparedness Initiative, is a featured Commitment to Action at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative. It ensures timely response to requests for support during the early stages of a cholera outbreak, preventing needless deaths and unacceptably high case fatality rates (such as those witnessed in the early days of the Haiti outbreak). The rapid response saves lives and establishes a platform for best practices in cholera treatment alongside local clinicians, Ministries of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The recent response in Sierra Leone illustrates how the Cholera Preparedness Initiative complements existing structures and efforts—both those of the local Ministry of Health and the WHO--in the country where the outbreak occurs. Our work with icddr,b also demonstrates the impact of pooled resources and expertise, thus avoiding the duplication of effort and diminished effectiveness that can result from organizations working in isolation.
Strong partnerships make this Health Initiative possible:
Recent News from Sierra Leone
As local and international efforts significantly slow the spread of Ebola in West Africa, AmeriCares continues to support treatment of Ebola patients and protect health workers, while beginning to rebuild and strengthen devastated health systems.
Stamford, Conn. – Sept. 8, 2014 – A 5,000-pound shipment of medicines, medical supplies and protective equipment is headed to Sierra Leone to aid health workers fighting the Ebola outbreak that has devastated West Africa.
Stamford, Conn. – Aug. 25, 2014 – Critical medicines and protective equipment for health workers on the front lines of the Ebola epidemic left AmeriCares Stamford, Connecticut, headquarters this afternoon destined for Liberia.
Stamford, Conn. – July 31, 2014 – AmeriCares is sending emergency medical aid to West Africa for the worsening Ebola outbreak, including personal protective equipment for health workers that offers the only line of defense against the deadly virus.
AmeriCares Global Cholera Initiative aims to reduce infection rates and save lives worldwide with rapid deliveries of treatment supplies and prevention training. The effort continues in Sierra Leone, where an alarming outbreak sickened and killed thousands in late 2012.