Description of the disaster
An Ebola epidemic that began in March 2014 in Guinea continued to claim lives and to spread to other countries (Liberia and Sierra Leone) in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak is on record as the largest in history and the first to affect multiple countries simultaneously. It could pass for one of the biggest epidemic control and response activities ever embarked on and with multiple partners. In the context of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the outbreak provided a real time test of the preparedness and coordination capability in responding to emergencies of such scale.
The declaration of Ebola-free status by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 3 West African countries since January 2016 has been characterized by new findings here and there and therefore the outbreak is still far from being over, although largely contained. However, the devastation caused by the outbreak is evidently enormous as indicated in the table on page 1.
In the response operation, more than 8,000 volunteers were mobilized from the 3 hardest hit West African countries while the movement deployed 459 highly trained International staff from over 30 National Societies. Their collective involvement in the response operation reached an estimated 8,000,000 people through Social Mobilization and Beneficiary Communication.
Some 403,615 were provided with Psychosocial Support while 97,000 cases were traced and monitored. The operation also ensured a Safe and Dignified Burial that respects the local cultural and religious values to the dead. Many experts believe that the official numbers substantially understated the size of the outbreak because of families' widespread reluctance to report cases. Because of the fluidity of movement of people between West Africa and several countries in the East African region, especially Kenya and Ethiopia (who in turn have extensive interaction with other countries in the region in terms of human movement), the risk of an outbreak of Ebola in East Africa was as eminent as in any of the countries bordering the affected countries in West Africa. In the face of this threat, the IFRC Regional Office for Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands supported 6 National Societies to raise their Ebola preparedness and response capacity through training, technical support in planning and implementation of Ebola related activities, and coordination both within and outside the movement.