Even before the Ebola outbreak began in 2014, Sierra Leone’s health care system was fragmented, underfunded, and thinly staffed.
With Ebola, it was overwhelmed completely.
At a time when rapid diagnosis and case tracking were crucial, such services halted to a standstill. When space to triage and care for patients was at a deficit, health care facilities had no recourse but to shut their doors. And when additional staff were needed to care for a growing influx of patients, supply shortages made working conditions unconscionable.
Ebola has declined sharply since the crisis began more than a year ago, but its consequences are lasting.
As of August 26, 2015, Sierra Leone had confirmed 8,547 Ebola cases. While 3,586 of those cases resulted in death, 5,111 people survived. Among those who survived, many face serious challenges – both physiological and social.
Survivors often experience eye problems, musculoskeletal pain, headaches, neurological issues, gastrointestinal problems and psychological challenges. Socially, they may be stigmatized and left few economic opportunities.
Services for survivors do exist, but not in the amounts needed. In Sierra Leone’s Bombali District, for instance, there is only one survivor clinic for an estimated 659 survivors.
To address this need, Direct Relief and the Medical Research Centre (MRC) — through a commitment announced at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative’s plenary session — will establish a new survivors’ clinic in the city of Makeni. Once built, the clinic will accept and care for any Ebola survivor from Bombali and the surrounding districts.
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS) has agreed to help staff the clinic. Personnel will include a supervising physician and medical staff who specialize in eye care and mental health care. In addition to on-site services, clinic staff will conduct community outreach activities. In instances where referrals are necessary, MRC has agreed to establish a referral network between the survivors’ clinic and larger government hospitals. Direct Relief will equip the clinic with sustained donations of medical resources.
In addition to MRC and Sierra Leone’s MOHS, collaborators include:
- Bombali EVD Survivor Association, which will conduct outreach, including through radio dissemination.
- The Canteen of the Midwifery School Makeni, which will provide prepared food for clinic health care workers, staff, and patients, with a focus on patients under observation
- The University of Makeni (UNIMAK) who will deploy psychiatric nurses
- MRC, which will provide non-healthcare related, administrative staff training to employees of the clinic
- Additional health NGOs who will provide specialized or higher level health services
To learn more, the full commitment is available on the Clinton Global Initiative website: Ebola Survivor Services, Bombali District, Sierra Leone