After more than a year of unimaginable suffering, West Africa looks cautiously ahead to the end of the most devastating outbreak of the Ebola virus the world has ever known. Yet the road for the three worst affected countries is still one of tough challenges.
Whilst Liberia is celebrating a second round of being declared Ebola-free, the announcement of new cases in Sierra Leone this week is seen as a real setback to national efforts to get rid of the disease. The new outbreaks, in the northern part of the country have led to a fresh round of enforced quarantines for thousands of people.
The first case of Ebola broke out in Guinea in December 2013, but the disease went undetected for four months until it crossed the border into neighbouring Sierra Leone, reaching its peak in August 2014. To date Ebola has claimed over 11,200 lives in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Thousands of others died of other causes due to the shutdown of emergency and regular health care services as hospitals closed their doors in the wake of the epidemic.
At AWDF, our Ebola relief support for 52 women’s organizations in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, underscores our concern for women who play the role of frontline responders in emergency situations on our continent. Within weeks of the outbreak we disbursed $450,000 to these women’s groups in the three countries.
Given the brutal impact on their already battered economies and the acute shortage of healthcare professionals, getting the countries completely Ebola-free and restoring what remains of virtually non-existent healthcare infrastructure will require the efforts of regional and national governments, individuals and the international community.
Early evidence from this outbreak has shown that women were disproportionately affected. Women’s livelihoods, security and lives came under direct assault as the epidemic waged its war.
For the next two weeks, we would like to salute the courage of the healthcare professionals, doctors, workers and ordinary everyday citizens who survived the unimaginable and through whose efforts the halt in the epidemic’s advance was made possible.
Through stories, features, reports and photographs we will tell the story of the impact of Ebola on women over the past year. Women who have demonstrated courage, resilience and the ability to survive the outbreak of one of the deadliest viruses on earth.
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