The international response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa has been slow and uneven, leaving local people, national governments and non-governmental organizations to do most of the hands-on work, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières said in a news release. The MSF release also warned that the international community risks failing to adapt to the outbreak after initially failing to respond quickly enough.
Although the countries worst hit by Ebola have received some form of assistance from the international community the assistance has focused primarily on financing or building Ebola case management structures. Staffing of the facilities has been left to national authorities, local healthcare staff, and NGOs lacking required expertise, according to the release.
People are still dying horrible deaths in an outbreak that has already killed thousands, Joanne Liu, MD, MS, MSF international president, said in the release. We cant let our guard down and allow this to become double failure, a response that was slow to begin with and is ill-adapted in the end.
Training NGOs and local healthcare workers to safely operate case management facilities can take weeks and bottlenecking has created significant delays. It is extremely disappointing that states with biological-disaster response capacities have chosen not to utilize them, Liu said. How is it that the international community has left the response to Ebola now a transnational threat to doctors, nurses and charity workers?
According to the release, adequate facilities for isolating and diagnosing patients are still lacking, as are transport facilities for laboratory samples in rural areas of Liberia, which still has active chains of transmission. Meanwhile, other elements essential to an Ebola response such as awareness-raising and community acceptance, safe burials, contact tracing, alert and surveillance are still lacking in parts of West Africa, according to the release.
Similar issues exist in Guinea, where the epidemic continues to spread. Controlling an Ebola outbreak goes beyond isolation and patient care, Liu said in the release. Wherever there are new cases, the full package of activities must be in place. Everyone involved in the response must take a flexible approach and allocate resources to the most pressing needs at any given time and place across the region.
According to the release, MSF began its Ebola intervention in West Africa in March and is now operating in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali. The organization runs six Ebola case management centers with a total capacity of more than 600 beds. Since March, MSF has admitted more than 6,000 people, of whom approximately 3,800 tested positive for Ebola and 1,600 have recovered. MSF has 270 international staff in the region and employs 3,100 nationally hired personnel.
For more information, visit http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org