The 2014 Ebola outbreak began in Guinea during the spring. Although case numbers have never grown to the levels seen in Sierra Leone and Liberia the outbreak still required serious attention from government. Case numbers have fallen from a peak of over 500 cases a month in September 2014 to under 100 by mid-2015. The most entrenched cases are now in the border regions.
AGI has been working with the Coordination de Lutte Contre la Maladie à Virus Ebola (CNLEB) to support efforts to carry out continued surveillance of case numbers by establishing stronger systems of coordination and organisation. The AGI advisor within the unit has also provided support on managing cross-border issues which are essential to containing the disease. Finally, our advisor has been flexible resource for the leaders of the unit to deploy at times of acute pressure on particular aspects of the response.
Surveillance is critical to the response because it lets us to trace people who have been in contact with Ebola victims and may be at risk of contracting the virus themselves. This means rigorous and vigilant procedures are needed, especially in hotspots such as hospitals. We have helped structure regular meetings to monitor any gaps in the surveillance effort and to ensure those meetings are used practically to solve problems as well as raise them. The improved flow of information to decision makers triggered changes in the response such as systematic swabs and safe burials for any death occurring in districts where Ebola was active (in March 2015). For Conakry this decision has brought about a seven-fold increase in the number of safe burials between late March and June 2015.
Ebola does not respect borders. Co-ordination across borders is vital to reaching and sustaining zero cases. AGI’s support to this coordination unit has benefitted from the work of AGI in all 3 affected Mano River countries. This work was supported by the Howard G Buffett Foundation, the Lao Niu Foundation and the Swedish Postcode Foundation.
The Ebola response has been unpredictable for everybody involved in it. The world has never experienced an outbreak on this scale before. As a former AGI Ebola advisor in Guinea, Antoine, put it:
“…despite the stress, the tiredness and the considerable amount of work it’s always particularly rewarding to be charged with such out-of-the-blue tasks that remind you whilst the end goal is clear, the road to zero is not an easy one.”