International Rescue Committee Releases Report Outlining Missteps in Global Response to Ebola

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has published a set of recommendations in response to the devastating Ebola outbreak as high-level delegates gather at the European Commission in Brussels to “take stock of the fight against the outbreak, coordinate further action for the total eradication of the disease and discuss the recovery process in the most affected countries.”

“The lesson of this crisis is that if you lose the trust of the community then you can’t run an effective health system. This is the warning we have to take on board to avoid the risk of repetition,” says IRC president and CEO, David Miliband.

The report highlights three key areas that are essential in stopping an outbreak like Ebola in the future:

• Local leadership is essential: Quarantines are a salient example of the essential role of local leadership. Enforced quarantines, such as the disastrous closure of the Monrovia neighborhood of West Point, served to fuel the epidemic. In contrast, self-imposed quarantines such as the ones organized in partnership between the IRC and local communities in Lofa County played a significant role in stopping the epidemic. By and large, local leaders and volunteers were the most effective agents of change.

• Healthcare workers must be paid and properly resourced: From Lofa County, Liberia, to Bo District in Sierra Leone the IRC heard directly from doctors and nurses who have not received a regular salary in months. When Ebola struck Liberia, healthcare workers had just been on strike to protest a lack of wages. With donor support, the governments of both countries must commit to paying their employees a regular and reliable salary. The ongoing response and future recovery must ensure that healthcare workers receive ongoing training, monitoring, mentorship and supervision.

• Infection prevention and control across the board: More than 500 healthcare workers died fighting Ebola. The IRC recognized that healthcare workers were putting their lives on the line to fight Ebola and instituted rigorous infection and prevention control trainings across Kenema district. It is imperative that we don’t let up. Practices put in place now must be continued and supported. These efforts need to be extended to schools and other public facilities. This is important as a means to restore the public’s trust

The IRC has been at the forefront of the fight to combat the spread of Ebola in both Sierra Leone and Liberia since the outbreak began last March. The IRC is committed to assisting the governments of both countries to get to zero, and to play an integral role in the restoration of the health and educational systems. The IRC has been working on health system strengthening and education in both countries since the late 1990s, with more than 700 staff across the two countries.

Source: International Rescue Committee

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