This week, ChildFund International president and CEO, Anne Lynam Goddard visited Liberia, which was declared free of Ebola last Saturday. While neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone still have some active cases of Ebola, the numbers are considerably lower than several months ago, at the height of the epidemic.
Since March 2014, when the virus began spreading quickly through West Africa, ChildFund has worked with governments and other nongovernmental organisations to make communities aware of preventive hygiene practices and also help survivors and children affected by the virus.
The focus of our work, which started in October 2014, was the opening of Interim Care Centres (ICC), where children who had lost caregivers to Ebola could receive care and attention while being watched for symptoms of Ebola. People working at the ICCs were often Ebola survivors, who are immune to the disease. The volunteers also worked to find homes for these children — many of whom are orphans — after their release from quarantine.
The outbreak of Ebola in Liberia is officially over. On Saturday 9 May, the World Health Organisation declared the country Ebola-free, marking 42 days since the burial of the last confirmed case of the deadly disease.
Liberia suffered the highest number of deaths of any country affected by the outbreak, with over 4,700 Liberians dying of Ebola since March 2014. At the peak of the epidemic, which occurred during August and September last year, the country was reporting 300 to 400 new cases every week.
Liberia’s last case of Ebola was a woman in the greater Monrovia (Liberia’s capital) area who developed symptoms on 20 March and died on 27 March. More than 300 people who had close contact with the woman were closely monitored but have all since been cleared. While Liberia has been declared Ebola-free, neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to battle the outbreak, so there is a risk that infected people could cross into Liberia over the region’s extremely porous borders. The country has now entered a three-month period of heightened vigilance.
ChildFund’s emergency response has been focused on the care and support of children orphaned by Ebola. Through the establishment of interim care centres (ICC) in Liberia and Sierra Leone, children are provided with food, shelter, medical care and psychosocial support for a 21-day quarantine period, during which time efforts are also made to find relatives or foster families who will accept these children and provide them with a new home. In Liberia, centres were established in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in the cities of Monrovia, Kakata and Ganta, just south of the Guinea border.