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Ebola: 1 year later, it’s still not over

It’s been 1 year since the Ebola outbreak began waging devastation throughout West Africa, and it isn’t over yet.

On March 23, 2014 the first known case of this Ebola outbreak was discovered in a toddler in Guinea. Due to various factors – including lack of awareness, limited resources, cultural practices and fragile healthcare systems – the deadly virus spread at an exponential rate, infecting almost 25,000 and claiming over 10,000 lives – all in just 1 year’s time.

Through the generosity of donors and alongside the brave, selfless efforts of healthcare workers and volunteers, Plan took action to support millions of children and families in the most affected countries.

Here are just a few examples of how we’ve helped those most at risk:

Guinea:

  • Reached over 702,000 people through prevention sessions and mobilization messages
  • Distributed over 12,000 tonnes of food
  • Established more than 13,000 hand washing stations in public spaces

Liberia:

  • Trained over 300 health workers in how to manage Ebola cases
  • Enabled over 72,000 students to attend Plan-supported schools
  • Provided psychosocial support to over 7,000 children

Sierra Leone:

  • Provided hygiene kits to over 50,000 individuals
  • Supported nearly 10,000 individuals through decontamination and distribution of replacement packages for mattresses, mosquito nets, linens, etc.
  • Reached 1,250,000 children through our Emergency Radio Education Program
The threat remains

Thanks to these collective efforts, “we are seeing Ebola cases going down, fear lifting, discussion on recovery taking place, people beginning to move around, schools reopening and a slow, but cautious return to normal life,” explains Plan’s Damien Queally in West Africa.

However, he cautions that diligent, ongoing efforts are critical to prevent a resurgence: “I am worried that many now think the crisis is over,” he expresses. “As long as we still have cases of Ebola, this crisis is very much alive and the risk of increasing victims is a reality.”

Living in the aftermath

Even in regions where Ebola has been declared officially eradicated, humanitarian issues have emerged and will persist in the virus’ wake.

Markets and businesses have closed and farms have been abandoned, limiting the availability of crucial resources, like food. Loans have been issued with no course for repayment, placing economic systems in further peril. Already fragile healthcare systems have collapsed from being pushed beyond their capacity.

Worst of all – families have been devastated, leaving children exposed and vulnerable. According to UNICEF, some 16,600 children are registered as having lost one or both parents or their primary caregivers to Ebola in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – with 7,500 of these children in Liberia alone.

“I wonder how life will be for their family, but mostly, how will their children survive?” says Henry, 18, from Liberia. “There should be no child who dies of hunger and starvation due to late responses to Ebola.”

Kamanda, 19, is a Plan Youth Blogger from Sierra Leone who foresees potentially bleak futures for Ebola-affected youth.

“There will be thousands more school dropouts, street children, especially girls and orphans who will be exposed to violations and dangers,” he says.

“I fear that I and my friends will not achieve our dreams.”

Soon, the rainy season will fall across West Africa. Roads will be washed out, electricity and water supplies reduced, and access to vital services will become more limited. Already weakened infrastructures will be further strained and families’ safety will be compromised as they attempt to recover from the Ebola outbreak.

“It is of prime importance that we do not lapse into complacency so near to the end of the outbreak,” advises Plan’s Emergency Response Manager Paolo Lubrano.

Target Zero: eliminating Ebola, protecting futures
A contract worker

A Plan worker conducts contact tracing to detect any possible Ebola contractions within a suspected community. Quarantined communities depend upon charities, such as Plan, to deliver basic provisions.

Plan is now providing humanitarian efforts with a focus on health and sanitation, child protection, economic security and education. We aim to stop the threat of the virus, mitigating lasting effects and helping communities recover – all while ensuring children’s rights and safety are top priority.

“We must not forget that as the virus retreats, many children will be struggling for a long time to return to normal. From their protection to their emotional welfare, there are several concerns for affected children. Ebola’s impact is likely to be felt for years and we must act to save children’s futures,” rallies Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International.

A continued need to stand together

“Ebola has taught us many things,” reflects Mr. Queally. “We have learned that something that starts off in one small village can become a global threat. Yet, we too have learned the strength and resilience of the human spirit, and the powerful good humanity is capable of when uniting to save lives.

“Fear will not beat Ebola,” he adds, “but bravery and action will.”

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