The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – which Age International is a member of – has announced today that it will launch an appeal for the Ebola Crisis in West Africa. This is the first time in its 50 year history that the DEC has appealed in response to a disease outbreak.
The decision to launch the DEC Ebola Crisis Appeal is a reflection of the fact that this is no longer simply a medical emergency but threatens to become a humanitarian catastrophe. The explosive spread of Ebola in West Africa is not just killing the infected, but also ripping apart health services, devastating communities, and destroying people’s ability to support themselves.
Preventing the spread of Ebola
DEC member agencies such as Age International are heavily involved in responding to the Ebola crisis with the majority of their work focused on stopping the spread of the disease and providing support to those affected. Members with the relevant medical expertise are also involved in the highly specialised work of treating people with Ebola.
DEC Chief Executive Saleh Saeed said:’This appeal is completely unprecedented and that is a sign of just how serious the situation in West Africa has become. In its 50 year history the DEC has launched appeals for humanitarian disasters caused by floods, famines, earthquake, typhoons, and countless conflicts. We have never run an appeal in response to a disease outbreak – until today.
‘While many chronic diseases cause untold suffering in poorer countries, the worst acute outbreaks of deadly diseases such as measles or cholera have usually occurred in the wake of another type of disaster. In West Africa today we are seeing a disease create not just a medical crisis but a humanitarian emergency. Without urgent action to stop the spread of Ebola and to help those affected by the crisis, parts of West Africa face catastrophe within 60 days.’
Up to 10,000 new cases a week by December
According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 5,000 people have died and more than 10,000 have been infected with Ebola since the start of the year. But the real numbers could be up to three times higher.
Infection rates continue to grow in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The World Health Organisation estimates that there could be 5,000 – 10,000 new cases a week in the worst affected countries by December. This is already the deadliest outbreak of Ebola since the disease was discovered in 1976.
How the DEC is helping
Specific examples of existing DEC member agency work include:
- Safely disposing of the bodies of the dead to prevent the spread of infection
- Tracing people who have been in contact with the infected so they can be treated if they have Ebola or go into quarantine until they are no longer at risk
- Protecting orphans and unaccompanied children whose families have been affected by the disease
- Raising awareness in communities at risk of infection to help people protect themselves
- Providing food aid to affected families
- Running some treatment centres
Providing protective clothing, medical supplies, and water and sanitation services.
All the countries at the epicentre of this outbreak – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – are extremely poor with already weak health systems and recent histories of conflict.
All major UK broadcasters will be carrying the DEC appeal including the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky. The appeal will also be supported by other major DEC partners including ITN, BT, Post Office, British Bankers Association, Royal Mail, RadioCentre and NewsNow.