Ebola Response Slow and Uneven Says Doctors Without Borders

On December 2, the Brussels based Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) stated that after failing to respond in a timely manner to stop the disease threat at the beginning, the world is failing to provide enough aid quickly enough to get ahead of the spread of Ebola.

“MSF began its Ebola intervention in West Africa in March 2014 and is now operating in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Mali. The organization runs six Ebola case management centers with a total capacity of more than 600 beds. Since March, MSF has admitted more than 6,000 people, of whom approximately 3,800 tested positive for Ebola and 1,600 have recovered. MSF has 270 international staff in the region and employs 3,100 nationally hired personnel.”

After MSF alerted countries that the threat required urgent dispatch of both human and material medical resources to West Africa, another three months passed and foreign governments have mostly worked on building Ebola management infrastructure (essentially record keeping) leaving medical treatment to local health care staff, many of which were already devastated due to the many local workers who died while working to treat early cases.

“People are still dying horrible deaths in an outbreak that has already killed thousands,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF international president. “We can’t let our guard down and allow this to become double failure, a response that was slow to begin with and is ill-adapted in the end.”

Read the full MSF briefing paper: Ebola Response: Where Are We Now?

Training NGO volunteers with little or no experience with treating extremely infectious patients takes weeks or months which means there is no possible way for volunteers or local medical facilities to get ahead of the rapidly spreading disease.

The volunteer doctors association says it is very disappointed that, in the face of this major international threat, countries which already have trained bio-threat personnel and equipment have left treatment to untrained and severely stressed local workers and volunteers.

“In rural areas of Liberia with active chains of transmission, there are no transport facilities for laboratory samples. In Sierra Leone, scores of callers reporting suspected cases to the national Ebola hotline are told to isolate people at home.”

Quotes are from Tim Shenk, Press Officer, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)