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Ebola Spreads Throughout Sierra Leone

A healthcare worker, left, helps a colleague as she prepares his Ebola personal protective equipment before entering the Ebola isolation ward at Kenema Government Hospital, in Sierra Leone, Aug. 12, 2014.

As Ebola virus outbreaks continue to spread in Sierra Leone, humanitarian agencies such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) work to contain the disease and educate communities about how to prevent contamination.

IRC country director Saffea Senessie says the country urgently needs major technical and financial resources to contain the spread of the disease.

“The current rate of the transmission of the disease is faster than the efforts to contain it,” says Senessie. “The geographic spread of the outbreak in Sierra Leone is so fast we now have it in 12 of the 14 systems.”

“The challenge we have now is to contain the disease,” he says.

Resources are stretched too far

The IRC country director added the other challenge is obtaining the resources and materials to meet the medical needs of all of the affected districts before it spreads further. “If all stakeholders including the government had invested six weeks ago, less money would have been required now,” Senessie says.

“There needs to be strengthening of coordination between different organizations and delegate responsibilities between the international technical staff, non-governmental organizations, and the ministry of health,” he says. “Quality, clinical case management is the cornerstone of Ebola control.”

People fear they will contract Ebola at clinics

Another major problem is that many people are afraid to enter health facilities.

“We are observing significant drops in utilization of health services,” he says. “People are scared to go to health facilities because they are both worried about getting Ebola from health workers,” he says.

Health workers are being stigmatized. Senessie reports that some people have spread rumors that health workers are injecting people with Ebola.

Such misinformation makes it important, he says, that community leaders educate the public about the disease to restore public confidence in healthcare workers.