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UNICEF ramps up support to help Liberian Government control Ebola outbreak [4 April 2014]

MONROVIA, Liberia 4 April 2014 –  The increase in the number of suspected cases of Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever (Ebola HF) in Liberia triggered UNICEF to ramp up support to Government led efforts to prevent the severe, often-fatal disease from spreading further.

The first suspected Ebola case was reported in Liberia just days after the Government of Guinea declared an Ebola outbreak across the border.  Less than two weeks later, the Liberian Ministry of Health reported  there are now up to eighteen suspected and probable cases, most of them women and children and seven related deaths. 

“With a case fatality rate of up to ninety per cent, Ebola is an extremely serious disease. Since the first suspected case was reported in Liberia, UNICEF has taken immediate action to reduce the risks for children,” said Dr. Fazlul Haque, UNICEF Acting Country Representative. 

“We have been supporting the government to ensure families and communities, particularly those in affected areas, receive needed supplies and equipment, and have the right information about Ebola,” continued Dr. Haque.

UNICEF immediately supplied life-saving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies and tents to establish Ebola isolation units in affected areas. So far, eight 72-metre tents, 7,500 pieces of soap, 45 kg of chlorine, 20 spray can units, tarpaulins and Ebola reference documents have been distributed to control the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, as a key member of the Government-led National Task Force on Health Emergencies, UNICEF is helping ensure families get needed information on the symptoms of Ebola as well as how to avoid contracting the virus. 

With UNICEF support, spot messages on Ebola for radio programmes, mobile phone SMS messages, informational brochures for community outreach workers, posters for health facilities and a five-minute drama have started to reach families and health workers.

“What we need now is greater commitments from partners and donors to help us scale up efforts to get information out to the population, particularly those living in hard to reach communities,” said Dr. Haque. “We hope to mobilize this support as swiftly as possible to prevent the level of outbreak we have seen in Guinea.”

The Ministry-led National Task Force on Health Emergencies brings together representatives from the government, international donors, UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to formulate and coordinate the Ebola response. 

As part of the task force, other expert agencies – including the World Health Organisaiton (WHO), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – are helping the Government with Ebola case management and surveillance. Even with all this support, critical gaps remain.

According to experts, the virus likely entered Liberia when individuals from southeastern Guinea crossed into neighboring Lofa County, Liberia, for treatment of suspected Ebola. In the days that followed, more suspected cases were identified in Lofa and Nimba Counties. 

This week, the infection was confirmed in two cases. One of these cases travelled to Margibi County, bringing the outbreak within an hour’s drive of the capital city, Monrovia.

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About UNICEF:

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do.  Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.   

For more information, please contact: Adolphus Scott, C4D Specialist; Tel: +231-(0)770-25-7113 (office), +231-(0)770-26-7113 (mobile); E-mail: adscott@unicef.org

 

 

 
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