29 July, 2014 - Global collective action needed to stop Ebola becoming a disaster

Dr Unni Krishnan, Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response, is available for grabs and phone interviews from London from 4pm. Please contact Adam Cathro on 0488 202 945 to arrange.

Humanitarian organisation Plan International Australia has called for a global collective action to stop Ebola from becoming a disaster.

Plan has reiterated its call for intensified support from the international community as the World Health Organisation today declared a Grade 3 emergency across West Africa.

The latest death of an infected person in Lagos, Nigeria, who arrived by air from Liberia, has renewed concerns about the spread of the deadly disease outside the affected countries.

“The arrival of Ebola in the most populous city in Africa is a wake-up call,” said Dr Unni Krishnan, Plan’s Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response. “Ebola is no longer a regional crisis, it has become a health crisis with global dimensions. The international community needs to act now before it is too late.”

Over 670 people have died in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria in the worst-ever Ebola outbreak to date. Liberia has declared a national emergency. Eight other countries in the region remain on high alert.

“The countries battling Ebola are among the poorest in the world and the public health systems across West Africa are fragile. The impacted countries desperately need financial and technical assistance to avoid a catastrophic situation,” said Dr Krishnan.

Porous borders have allowed infected people to move the disease to new locations. Plan is calling for a coordinated action with heightened preparedness measures across the region. The Ebola response to date has been impacted by inadequate initial assessments and poor capacities of health systems in the affected nations.

“There has been a gross misjudgment across the board in gauging the severity and scale of damage the current Ebola outbreak can unleash. If the international community does not rush to West Africa’s support immediately, we are looking at a dangerous scenario," said Adama Coulibaly, Plan’s Regional Director for Central and West Africa.

Plan is responding to Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone complementing local governments’ efforts, particularly in providing material support to contain the spread of the disease.

Ebola is one of the most virulent diseases known, which spreads through contact with an infected person's bodily fluids. There is no vaccine or cure for the disease and it kills up to 90 per cent of those infected. Communities have witnessed horrific scenes of infected people dying with symptoms of severe bleeding.

Plan field staff in the affected areas report of widespread fear and anxiety among the local populations.

“People are scared, desperate and worried. Continued Ebola deaths have increased their fear and feeling of hopelessness,” said Gbaka Sandouno, Plan’s programme unit manager in the Guinean town of Gueckedou which is the epicentre of the current outbreak with 145 confirmed Ebola deaths so far.

Rumours are also rife on the ground making an already challenging response even more complicated. In some cases, local mobs have attacked health workers forcing emergency centres to close.

Relevant photos are available here. Please credit ‘Plan International Australia’.

Editors’ notes:

Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious or political affiliations.

Plan has been working in Sierra Leone since 1976, Liberia since 1982 and Guinea since 1989, helping poor children access their rights to education, health, sanitation and protection. The organisation sponsors 53,250 children spread over 1,367 communities across the three countries.

Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International in Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945