Article submitted by: Kathleen O’Toole

As of October 31, 2014, the CDC reported up to 13,540 cases of Ebola in West Africa alone, with the death toll standing at 4941 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. According to the InterAction website, this makes the current outbreak deadlier than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined. As the people of West Africa endure the resulting illness, closed borders, destabilizing economies, and thinning resources, the crisis has garnered worldwide attention, with governments, corporations and over 50 NGOs all offering their support. However, this particular crisis presents unique challenges, requiring a new approach to problem solving.

New Risks and Issues

Health care team in the fieldIn light of the fear surrounding the outbreak, West Africa is still facing border closures, flight bans, and shortages in infrastructure necessary to get aid workers, medical teams, and equipment where they are needed most. What’s more, such closures are exacerbating the outbreak’s ripple effects throughout West Africa, including economic instability, food security, and providing proper care to non-Ebola medical patients as well.

This brings up a pressing point: tremendous need for ebola-specific care in West Africa has also choked its already limited healthcare system. According to the BBC, Liberia currently has no beds available to take on additional patients, leaving some patients no recourse but to die in the street. As doctors and nurses struggle to help those impacted by the disease, other patients in the region are falling to the wayside, increasing the mortality rate for common health concerns across the board.

While positive news has come in the form of vaccines ready for human trial, the research has been halted due to a lack of funds. In the past, not much funding has gone into Ebola research, as the risk was not considered dire before this recent outbreak. The good news is that the research has continued regardless, paving the way for vaccines that have passed non-human trials. In order to take the next step in making this resource available to the public, researchers will need considerable support from outside parties.

Addressing the Issues

There are many ways corporations can lend their assistance during this crucial time. While donated funds will go a long way toward aiding researchers, health care workers, and those providing infrastructure assistance, there are many other avenues for providing substantial aid. According to a recent report by the BBC, the solutions most needed to contain the outbreak and heal the region include additional treatment centers, training efforts, access in and out of the region, readiness for widespread vaccine distribution, medikits, and education.

Corporations looking to provide practical help could utilize funds, resources, and personnel addressing any one of these issues. While governments across the globe are sending troops to build treatment centers, additional construction support would speed efforts substantially. Providing training and awareness campaigns throughout the region and beyond would help affected citizens provide better help to their loved ones, plus increase preparedness in surrounding regions should the outbreak spread. Supplies such as food, medikits, blankets, and construction materials would also prove invaluable.

NGOs Making Key Differences

As previously mentioned, over 50 NGOs are working to provide considerable aid in this crisis. Below are two good examples of organizations contributing with practical, yet original thinking.

  • IMA World Health is leading a project to provide proper training and equipment to healthcare workers. The training would involve not only self-protection, but proper patient referral, plus information for caretakers of patients without access to healthcare facilities.
  • As part of their efforts to provide aid, Direct Relief is finding ways past the bottlenecks inherent in West Africa’s healthcare systems to provide resources where they are needed most. These supplies include ebola-specific materials, plus equipment necessary to treat expectant mothers and those suffering from non-ebola illnesses.

Both IMA World Health and Direct Relief are seeking corporate sponsorship or partnerships to increase the breadth of their aid, as are all NGOs fighting this crisis. For corporations looking to contribute in a meaningful way, taking these unexpected issues–and their solutions–into consideration will help them maximize their impact on this tragic situation. By providing not only funds, but training, personnel, sponsorship, and supplies, corporations across the world can be proud of having tackled this complex issue from every angle necessary, ensuring a faster recovery time for the West African region in the weeks and months to come.

Resources Cited:

InterAction: http://www.interaction.org/crisis-list/interaction-members-respond-ebola-crisis

The CDC’s 2014 Ebola Outbreak Report: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/case-counts.html

NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ebola-virus-outbreak/nose-spray-ebola-vaccine-protects-monkeys-n240231

BBC News: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-29242842

CSR Match Feature Page on IMA World Health: https://www.csrmatch.org/project/responding-to-the-ebola-crisis/

CSR Match Feature Page on Direct Relief: https://www.csrmatch.org/project/ebola-outbreak-in-west-africa/

 

 

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