EVD Response Welthungerhilfe Liberia
In March 2014, a rapidly evolving outbreak of Ebola haemorrhagic fever started in Guinea. The outbreak subsequently spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal.
In Liberia, the first epidemic began on 22 March and ended in April, 2014 and mainly affected two counties. The last case was confirmed on 10 April, 2014. Cumulatively, six cases were confirmed positive of the virus and all died at the time (Case Fatality Rate [CFR] of 100%).
On 6 Aug, the Liberian President declared the State of Emergency for 90 days, no update on this so far, even though 90 days have passed already. On 8 Aug, WHO declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
With 6,619 total cases, and 2,766 deaths as of 7 Nov, Liberia suffered most from the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak that had 13,268 cases and 4,960 deaths in West Africa (WHO Ebola Response Roadmap Situation Report Update, 7 Nov)
Although the number of cases in the hardest hit areas of Liberia appear to be on the decline, the virus has spread to all 15 counties in Liberia, making it very difficult to tackle, and aggravating already fragile social, political and economic conditions. Further, with the current end of the rainy season, people become more mobile and movement will increase with the potential further spread of the virus.
EVD reveals painfully the weakness of the Liberian health system, as Liberia entered the epidemic with only about 50 doctors for 4 million people. In the rural areas of Liberia, almost 1.5 million people lack access to care because they live too far from a health facility.
Due to the EVD crisis, there has been a general economic slowdown impacting the main livelihoods, and a significant drop in HH incomes and purchasing power. Supply of goods in the country, especially in the rural areas has been heavily constrained, as domestic markets have been disrupted due to travel restrictions. Price trends in 2014 are generally higher than would normally be the case without Ebola, with an increase of up to 40% for rice, the main staple food in Liberia. Local cross border exchanges remains disrupted due to border closures between Guinean, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia.
This reduction in incomes and supply have resulted in changing eating habits and food security of households. Households in general are employing negative coping strategies, which include households’ changing the types of foods consumed (cheaper rice and less protein/meat), rationing the amount of food eaten and sales of some assets in order to manage their food shortfall. Communities in districts with high cases or deaths of EVD are most affected in terms of food security (compare key findings of Food Sec Assessment, not yet published).
WASH related diseases jeopardize the health of the population, as these symptoms and those of EVD are very similar. The EVD outbreak also painfully reveals the status of WASH services in the county as 60% of the population does not have access to clean drinking water and more than 80% does not have access to any sanitation facility. Increased provision of WASH services-hygiene promotion (the virus is killed by contact with soap and bleach), waste management, sanitation facilities and the provision of clean drinking water- is essential in controlling and preventing EVD.
As a major international actor in Liberia since 2003, with a total investment of approx. 50 Million €, Welthungerhilfe is determined to use its expertise, extensive knowledge and experience in Infrastructure, WASH and Agriculture/Food+Nutr Sec in the fight against Ebola. Focus is on the Southeast where Welthungerhilfe has been active since 2005, and Montserrado and Bomi County, where Welthungerhilfe has worked on (peri) urban agriculture since 2008, with a special focus for the urban slums.