Ebola

How Japan Relief Efforts Four Years Ago are Helping Fight Ebola Today

Last Mile Health Medical Director John Ly shows community health workers on the frontlines of Ebola in Liberia how to use the surgical gown sets from Japan.
Last Mile Health Medical Director John Ly shows community health workers on the frontlines of Ebola in Liberia how to use the surgical gown sets from Japan.

Four years ago, the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku Earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear disaster battered northern Japan on March 11, killing more than 16,000 people and leaving thousands more missing and injured. Thanks to generous supporters, Direct Relief provided more than $5.5 million in grants to 13 Japanese aid groups working to provide relief and recovery to survivors.

The relationships formed with Japanese agencies in response to the strongest known earthquake to ever hit Japan are now amplifying efforts to stop the deadliest outbreak of Ebola the world has ever seen, which began in West Africa in December 2013.

Ebola Epidemic Causes Global Shortage of Protective Gear

In mid-2014, Direct Relief began supporting partners in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea with resources for Ebola response, including critical medicines and medical supplies as well as protective equipment for health workers on the front lines of treating the highly contagious disease, which spreads through contact with infected bodily fluids.

As concern grew in the United States and other countries about the spread of Ebola across borders, quality personal protective equipment (PPE) was in high demand. It became very difficult to source donations, and almost impossible to purchase.

A midwife checks a visitor's temperature before he enters the Peripheral Health Unit in Makeni, Sierra Leone.  The healthcare providers at this facility wear peronal protective equipment which was donated by Direct Relief, including surgical gown sets from Japan.
A midwife checks a visitor’s temperature before he enters the Peripheral Health Unit in Makeni, Sierra Leone. The healthcare providers at this facility wear personal protective equipment which was donated by Direct Relief, including surgical gown sets from Japan.

Calling Upon Japan Partners for Help

Japan is at the forefront of technology, so the Emergency Team thought to ask the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC) if they knew of any Japanese vendors of coveralls and other PPE.

Direct Relief partnered with JANIC after the earthquake and tsunami to ensure aid was delivered where most needed.  JANIC’s coordination efforts and strong ties to hundreds of stakeholders and local nonprofits working in Tohoku helped Direct Relief find trusted partners doing great work in a country where Direct Relief had previously not conducted relief efforts.

In response to the urgent request for PPE in West Africa, JANIC went further. They adopted enthusiasm for the cause, enlisted the help of non-governmental organization, CWS Japan, and began asking local governments and groups if they had any PPE for donation.

Surgical gown sets donated by the City of Yokohama, Japan are part of the healthcare facility supply modules sent to West Africa.
Surgical gown sets donated by the City of Yokohama, Japan are part of the supply modules.

City of Yokohama Donates 60,000 Sets of PPE to West Africa

Several government entities acquired stores of PPE in 2009 when the Avian flu was a major scare. The preparedness plan required keeping the PPE stores for five years.

Wanting to contribute to the global effort to stop the spread of Ebola, the City of Yokohama donated 60,000 full sets of basic protective gear: gloves, gowns, goggles, face shields, shoe covers, and masks to Direct Relief.

In February, 30,000 sets were included in 100 Healthcare Facility Support Modules sent to West Africa.  The other 30,000 were shipped directly to partners in Sierra Leone and Liberia, who are trying to revamp the basic healthcare system and protect healthcare workers.

This significant donation illustrates the value of building and maintaining relationships beyond a disaster situation as well as coming together as a global community to help in times of need.

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