The Future of Ebola - dummies

By Edward K. Chapnick

The Ebola outbreak isn’t under control yet. It has ebbed and flowed. Some weeks it seems to be slowing down, with some countries even being declared Ebola-free by officials, only to have another case surface.

Progress is being made in small steps, but it’s going to take quite some time still for healthcare workers to rein the outbreak in and halt it (in fact, the UN estimates the current outbreak won’t be contained until mid-2015). The main thing is that they can’t let up on the frontlines. And non-affected countries must keep the aid flowing into and the focus on West Africa.

Eyeing West Africa: At most risk

Of all the people and entities that are affected and at risk, no one is more vulnerable than West Africa. Those countries are in the midst of a public health emergency, and it will be extremely difficult for them to recover, even after the outbreak is contained. All aspects of their society are impacted in these ways:

  • They’re facing a food crisis because the Ebola outbreak has been happening throughout their harvest time. Labor forces are being lost to sickness, and even people who are still well enough to work often can’t access farms due to border regulations.

  • Airline restrictions have made travel (including that for trade) nearly impossible, which means that tourism has been eliminated almost entirely and foreign citizens are being pulled out by their countries.

  • Even just daily life is a struggle at the moment. Children have been orphaned, entire families have been wiped out, and survivors are being ostracized and demonized.

Providing help

In this type of situation, all hands on deck are needed. Although controversy surrounds how world health leaders and other powers handled the initial outbreak, funding and efforts are now well underway. Without the help of nations from around the globe, West Africa won’t be able to stop the outbreak.

Millions of dollars are being contributed as well as many tons of supplies. Volunteers, such as healthcare professionals, health education specialists, case workers, and logistics managers, are on the frontlines providing life-saving care, education, and assistance while people in the United States and Canada can participate by donating and sharing the right information.

So what kinds of tasks and projects are volunteers doing in West Africa, besides providing direct medical care? Some of the work includes

  • Receiving and sorting supplies

  • Mapping affected areas and tracking cases

  • Planning and building new mobile clinics and labs

  • Working with communities to educate residents in effective and innovative ways about Ebola prevention and response

  • Providing social services to survivors, including orphaned children

  • Tracking contacts of confirmed Ebola patients

  • Compiling data and research