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Ebola Crisis: emergency response in Sierra Leone

Save the Children is responding to the Ebola outbreak in four provinces in Sierra Leone, with a strong focus on raising awareness and breaking transmission at the source.

Our programmes also focus on strengthening or helping re-establish national healthcare services where these have been weakened by the outbreak. Our health, child protection, education and child rights work has so far reached around 100,000 people since the start of the response in March 2014.

Kerry Town

The Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC), which opened on 5 November 2014, is now operating at its full 80-bed capacity.

This specialist medical centre – 40km outside the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown – is where people diagnosed with Ebola are referred to receive medical care and ensure that they do not transmit the virus to others.

The centre is working closely with the National Ebola Response Centre and its regional offshoots to ensure patients are referred for treatment as quickly as possible.

The construction of the ETC was funded by the UK Department for International Development and designed and overseen by British Army Royal Engineers over two months. It was a joint Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health and British Government initiative.

As of 30 December, 76 patients treated at the centre have been treated and discharged, and over 210 have received or continue to receive treatment against the disease.

The ETC increased the number of beds incrementally until reaching its full capacity on 25 December 2014. This planned and staged scale-up to full capacity was crucial to ensure staff safety while providing the highest levels of patient care, as ongoing works were also being carried out to ensure high standards of infection prevention and control.

Getting treated at the earliest stages of the disease maximises the chances of survival of those who are infected, and can make the difference between life and death. Since opening, the overall fatality rate is 50%, with strong signs over the past three weeks that this rate is going down.

The onsite laboratory also helps ensure that people both in the centre and in holding centres elsewhere are tested rapidly and can then be discharged or referred for appropriate treatment.

As part of its integrated response to the outbreak, Save the Children has trained 300 community healthcare workers who are now going door-to-door in Ebola hot spots in Freetown, to help families identify suspect cases and refer them for treatment.

Save the Children, in partnership with 100 community leaders, is also carrying out a broad anti-stigmatisation campaign to ensure support for those affected by the disease.

Staffing

The Kerry Town ETC is staffed by approximately 430 national staff and 85 international staff.

NHS staff working with Save the Children have been voluntarily deploying to Ebola-affected countries, but will continue to be paid by the NHS, and managed in country by Save the Children.

All our existing Save the Children staff who are deploying are doing so voluntarily.

Prior to deployment, all staff are thoroughly vetted and trained – this means that they receive both medical and psychological clearance to deploy from an independent third party.

Staff also receive in-country training before they can enter high-risk areas, and they are assessed when they have completed this, to ensure they can put on and remove their personal protective suits in a safe manner.

Safety protocols

Save the Children works in some of the world’s most dangerous locations, and as such we have robust and strict protocols in place to protect our staff and the communities we seek to serve.

At the Kerry Town ETC, these protocols are constantly reviewed and monitored to ensure the highest standards of safety and infection prevention and control for all staff.

Staff are also advised to be careful outside the treatment centre, where exposure to risks can be less obvious, and respect guidance to avoid direct body contact and keep a safe distance.

Save the Children maintains confidence in both our equipment and our protocols, as long as they are followed properly.

Staff safety is our number one priority. In the light of the recent case we are undertaking a specific review to see if any lessons can be learnt.

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