19 February 2015

Ebola in West Africa: One Year after the Outbreak

A timeline of the turning points in the West African Ebola outbreak, and how SOS Children’s Villages responded

Photographer: Daniel van Moll

In December 2013 a two-year-old boy from Guinea died of strange symptoms. His case was later identified by researchers as the first case of Ebola in West Africa since 2012. His death was the beginning of the biggest-ever Ebola outbreak, which continues to grip West African countries despite an apparent decline in the number of new cases. Here’s how the Ebola outbreak unfolded, and where we are today.

A fuller version of this story, written by Jude Fuhnwi, a correspondent with SOS Children’s Villages International, was originally published in Sierra Leone in the newspapers Concord Times and The Democrat.

It all started in Guinea

19 February 2015 - In Guinea, West Africa, on 28 December 2013, a two-year-old boy died suddenly with strange symptoms. His case was later identified by researchers of the New England Journal of Medicine, and confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), as the first new case of Ebola in Africa since 2012. His death was the beginning of the biggest-ever Ebola outbreak, which continues to grip West African countries despite an apparent decline in the number of new cases. From Guinea, the disease rapidly spread to the neighbouring countries of Liberia and Sierra Leone in the early months of 2014.

SOS Children’s Villages safe and alert

Right away movements in and out of SOS Children’s Villages were restricted to avoid bringing the virus into the village environments. Strict hand-washing measures were implemented, and all SOS schools were closed and children were schooled at home or in SOS Children’s Villages libraries.
 
With essential funding for care programmes from individual sponsors and many multilateral and governmental entities, SOS Children’s Villages stepped up precautionary measures to guard against infection. Read more...

Ebola kills SOS mother and co-worker

An SOS mother and an SOS nurse died in Liberia when the Ebola outbreak intensified. Both contracted the virus outside of SOS premises when visiting relatives and died shortly afterwards. Read more...

A clinic that won’t give up - SOS Medical Centre Monrovia

The SOS Medical Centre Monrovia continued to provide health services to hundreds of people in Liberia. The centre was among the few that operated 24 hours a day, despite a brief period of closure. Read more...

Slowing, but still not under control

In its situation report on Wednesday, 4 February, the WHO indicated that the number of new cases of Ebola in the three countries worst hit by the virus had increased in the last week of January 2015, reversing a series of encouraging declines. Earlier, the WHO had announced its lowest weekly count of new cases since June 2014, and Liberia had recorded only five new confirmed cases in 10 months, raising hopes that the outbreak was finally waning.
 
“Although the Ebola outbreak is approaching its first anniversary, and even though it appears ‘the worst is over’, and reported new cases seem to be declining, it is still not really time for celebration, said the National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Sierra Leone, Mr Olatungie Woode. Read more...

New signs of hope

On 16 February, after months of closure, the SOS Hermann Gmeiner International schools and SOS Kindergartens in Liberia reopened on 16 February. The government announced that it would postpone the reopening of other schools in the country until 2 March, as precautionary measures in those schools had not been met.
 
In Guinea, schools reopened on Monday, 19 January, three months after schedule. Some parents are still reluctant to send their children to school, for fear they might contract the virus.

The Ebola outbreak now

One year later, the Ebola virus has infected over 21,000 people and claimed nearly 9,000 lives according to the WHO. It is the largest Ebola outbreak in history and it continues to take lives.
 
According to Mr George Kordahi, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Liberia, the past year was a “very difficult and trying time for us. I have never experienced such emotions personally. Death was all around us, but yet was invisible -- unless it touches you. July, August, September, October and November of 2014 are months we will never forget as long as we live.”

Home for the children ‘no one wants to see’

SOS Children’s Villages is now focused on making homes for children orphaned by Ebola in West Africa.
 
In January, four Ebola orphans found new families and homes in SOS Children’s Village Makeni, Sierra Leone.
 
“An additional six children orphaned by Ebola will join the Children’s Village in Makeni. About 15 to 20 will come to the SOS Children’s Village Freetown, and 10 to 15 will join the SOS Children’s Village Bo,” said Mr Woode. Read more...

WHO warns: Prepare for rainy season

The WHO emphasises the need to step-up efforts before the start of the April-May rainy season, when downpours can block roads and make it difficult for health teams to travel.