Catholic Relief Services Responds to Ebola Outbreak in Sierra Leone
BALTIMORE, MD, June 9, 2014 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) continues its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as the public health crisis is getting worse. New cases have been reported in Sierra Leone, bringing the death toll to more than 200 in the region.
CRS has been working closely with the government of Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Task Force on awareness-raising campaigns, using radio and other mediums to disseminate critical messages about prevention, transmission and treatment of the disease.
Meredith Dyson, a health program manager, has overseen CRS’ response since Ebola broke out in the region in March. She just returned from Kenema, in the eastern region of the country, where many people with suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola have come to seek treatment. All of the confirmed cases thus far have come from an area even further east with close proximity to the border with Guinea and significant, formal and informal cross-border activity and migration.
A major barrier to containing the outbreak in Sierra Leone has been a distrust of the formal health system and a lack of awareness.
“Many people in Sierra Leone hold traditional beliefs or don’t trust the formal health system because they don’t have access to relevant information or misinformation about disease prevention, transmission and treatment,” Dyson says.
“At CRS, we have the advantage of having close ties with communities across the country and local staff who know the culture and belief system, and who can identify potential problems and raise awareness about the disease. There needs to be a lot more outreach so people can understand the medical issue and the outbreak can be contained.”
The task force’s communications team, which CRS is a part of, is intensifying awareness-raising activities throughout the country, including expanded media coverage and the targeting of traditional leaders who are essential to the behavior change needed to contain the outbreak.
In Guinea, where Ebola first broke out in March, CRS’ local partner is supporting its Caritas partners with awareness campaigns, prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and alerting health officials of suspected cases for diagnosis and treatment.
In Liberia, CRS is partnering with the Liberia National Catholic Health Council to ensure health care workers in 18 Catholic health facilities are informed on how Ebola is transmitted and have access to personal protection equipment (PPE) for infection control. CRS has distributed equipment kits, along with bleach, to 13 health facilities. The kits include gloves, aprons, masks, goggles, rubber boots and plastic sheets.
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Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency eases suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit www.crs.org or www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnews, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.