Ebola: Victims, stigma and fear

The fight continues

Ebola broke out in West Africa at the end of 2013. Since then, the disease has killed thousands and has left deep scars across countries and communities. Families have been devastated. Survivors are struggling to return to normal life and reintegrate into society. In some places, people still oppose measures that could prevent the disease from spreading, partly because they cling to traditional burial practices. Misconceptions and fear still abound, sometimes putting Red Cross volunteers and staff at risk.

The ICRC and its partners in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are calling for renewed efforts to fight Ebola. We want to see respect and support for those who are working tirelessly to keep their communities safe. The ICRC, the International Federation and the National Societies are helping Ebola survivors reintegrate into their communities, raising awareness of the stigma that surrounds them and encouraging people to treat them with respect and dignity.

The ICRC and the Movement will carry on doing whatever it takes to defeat the disease. This includes putting communities back on their feet, providing cash assistance to survivors and the families of those who have died, and cleaning and upgrading health facilities and water infrastructure, which will benefit the entire population.

From prevention to response

The ICRC has focused on supporting the efforts of the local Red Cross Societies to help those affected, while at the same time helping to ensure that their volunteers and staff do not fall victim to the disease. We have been most active in Liberia and Guinea, where we have been operating for decades, but we did support the Movement's programmes in other countries of the region, such as Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali.

Ebola survivors and relatives of Ebola victims received cash grants
non-Ebola patients were able to obtain health care, thanks to support for health facilities and training for staff
Guinea Red Cross personnel learned to handle security problems arising from misconceptions and fears related to Ebola

Update, Saturday 9 May 2015

After dealing for more than a year with the worst Ebola outbreak in its history, Liberia has just been declared Ebola-free. Vigilance is still needed, but the country can now focus on healing the wounds inflicted on communities and help them build a brighter future.

In Liberia, our operation focused on making sure people could continue to obtain health care for conditions and situations unrelated to Ebola. We upgraded health facilities, trained medical staff, gave Ebola patients and survivors food and cash, prevented the spread of Ebola in places of detention, cleaned contaminated areas and helped with the safe management of infectious sewage.

ICRC activities in Liberia:

  • Provided cash assistance to 1,543 people – Ebola survivors in Monrovia and the relatives of people who had died of Ebola, and whose bodies had been taken care of by Liberia Red Cross burial teams in Montserrado County.
  • Delivered 7,396 meals to 831 patients in two Ebola treatment centres and a triage area in Monrovia.
  • Cleaned up Ebola-contaminated areas in Monrovia's Redemption Hospital, allowing the hospital to re-open and resume services for more than 150,000 patients.
  • Helped the authorities manage potentially infectious Ebola waste.
  • Raised awareness and promoted preventive measures among 1,600 detainees and staff in 16 prisons.
  • Ensured that prison inmates continued to benefit from health care.
  • Provided extra food rations for all detainees in Liberia's prisons.
  • Supported and upgraded three health facilities in Monrovia, where we trained staff to prevent and control infection, provided protective equipment and built or rebuilt water and waste infrastructure. This ensured that 75,000 non-Ebola patients could obtain health care, including curative care (9,034 patients), prenatal consultations (3,391 women) and safe births (282 since November 2014).

In Guinea, the ICRC has been providing the National Red Cross Society with training and equipment. We also helped to prevent the disease from spreading more widely, by raising awareness, encouraging preventive measures and distributing hygiene items. Thanks to the work carried out in prisons, no cases of Ebola have been reported in prisons so far.

ICRC activities in Guinea:

  • Helped prison authorities prevent Ebola from spreading into prisons, providing them with items such as thermometers, bleach and soap and helping to pay for medical personnel at prisons in Ebola-affected regions.
  • Ensured detainees had access to clean water and adequate health care and raised awareness among detainees and staff about the importance of such precautions as washing hands regularly.
  • Trained 288 Red Cross volunteers in disease prevention, disinfection of homes and the safe and dignified management of bodies.
  • Trained 249 Red Cross volunteers and team leaders to handle security problems arising from misconceptions and fears related to Ebola. This training enhanced their safety when working with Ebola victims.
  • Supported the Red Cross Society of Guinea's efforts to deal with Ebola, providing them with training on preventive measures, protective clothing, burial bags, vehicles, IT equipment, etc.
  • Worked with the National Society to raise awareness on preventive measures and to encourage respect for Red Cross personnel involved in the fight against Ebola. This included producing radio spots that were broadcast some 5,000 times on 20 radio stations.