Desperate demand for Ebola treatment in Sierra Leone as 5 people are infected every hour

EMBAGOED UNTIL 22:00 1ST OCTOBER 2014Desperate demand for Ebola treatment in Sierra Leone as 5 people are infected every hour

Wednesday, 1 October 2014 - 6:29pm

The demand for treatment beds and nurses to halt the rapid spread of Ebola across Sierra Leone is far outstripping supply, according to Save the Children. An estimated 765[1] new cases were reported last week – a rate of five every hour - while there are only 327 beds in the country. The critical shortage comes as untold numbers of children are dying anonymously at home or in the streets, meaning the scale of the problem is massively under-reported.

Ebola is spreading across Sierra Leone at a terrifying rate, with the number of new cases being recorded doubling every few weeks. At the current rate, 10 people every hour will be infected with Ebola in the country before the end of October. Even as health authorities get on top of the outbreak in one area, it breaks out in another. In the Port Loko district, cases have risen five-fold in the last month[2].

Even with the 700 new beds pledged by the UK government, unless the international community radically steps up its response people will continue to die at home, infecting their families and wider community.

Save the Children’s country director in Sierra Leone, Rob MacGillivray, says: “We are facing the frightening prospect of an epidemic which is spreading like wildfire across Sierra Leone, with the number of new cases doubling every three weeks. Children, more than anyone, are suffering painful, anonymous and undignified deaths at home. It’s very difficult at this stage to even give accurate figures on the number of children who are dying from Ebola, as monitoring systems cannot keep pace with the outbreak.”

Save the Children is working with DFID and the Ministry of Defence to build and run a 92-bed treatment centre in Sierra Leone, as well as supporting an Interim Care Centre in Kailahun for children who have lost their families to Ebola. The organisation is pledging today (02/10) to raise and spend $70m (£43m) to stop the spread of the disease across the region, treat more patients and support children who have lost their parents. Save the Children is also working in Liberia and Guinea, tackling the spread of Ebola.

Justin Forsyth, Save the Children’s CEO, says: “The UK government has taken the lead on supporting Sierra Leone to tackle this crisis, but it cannot act alone. The scale of the Ebola epidemic is devastating and growing every day, with five people infected every hour in Sierra Leone last week. We need a coordinated international response that ensures treatment centres are built and staffed immediately.

“This is not only an immediate humanitarian threat, but risks completely undoing the hard work which has been done to build up fragile health systems in Sierra Leone and Liberia after the devastating wars of the past few decades. ”

Save the Children has spokespeople available in Sierra Leone and the UK. CEO Justin Forsyth will also be able to do limited media interviews from the pledging conference in London. Please contact the media team on 0207 012 6841 / 07831650409 for more information.

Footage of the new treatment centre in Sierra Leone being built, including interviews with Save the Children staff on site, is available to download here.

[1] Based on Sierra Leone Ministry of Health figures which show 306 new cases were reported in the week to Wednesday 1st October. This is then multiplied by 2.5 to take into account underreporting, according to CDC guidelines. [2] According to Ministry of Health figures from August 30th and September 30th.