A Practical Response for Ebola Relief
By Paul Molingowski
The noise surrounding the current Ebola outbreak is tremendous, with a Google search producing 385 million results. Hospitals, clinicians, NGOs, and governments around the world are scrambling to develop effective responses and put preventive measures in places.
Despite all of the attention – or perhaps because of it — there have only been four confirmed Ebola cases in the United States. Compare that to Sierra Leone, which has 3,778 confirmed cases (5,338 suspected) in a population of only 6 million people.
My point in writing this article is to help shed light on an overlooked problem that is a terrible side effect of Ebola: starvation.
I was blessed to be able to travel to Sierra Leone early this year. It is a wonderful country. We know many men, women, and children who have been impacted by Ebola. Our group’s scheduled departure was just as the first Ebola cases were being diagnosed. Our friends in Sierra Leone with literal boots on the ground have done a tremendous job with limited resources to provide education, medical supplies, basic healthcare, and village support.
There is still a huge need for food for the suspected Ebola victims and their families who are quarantined. Normally in Sierra Leone, hospital food is supplied by the families of patients. Since the patients are isolated and often treated with fear, this sometimes means they are not fed.
When families are quarantined in their homes for 21 days, they are surrounded by armed guards and left with little food or water. Some escape to avoid starvation, spreading the disease to other villages. Also, the already fragile economy of Sierra Leone has been hurt by the epidemic, causing food prices to rise dramatically. Simply put, providing food to starving victims will help stop the spread of Ebola.
Other big needs are for medical supplies and effective transportation. Hospitals and treatment centers do not always have the resources to provide gowns and do laundry, so patients who are sick are often left dirty and naked to fend for themselves.
I can personally attest to the poor condition of the roads in Sierra Leone. Most are dirt, which means they are severely rutted and can become almost impassable in the rainy season, making it very difficult to deliver aid. Motorcycles are a great way to get around and we are providing more.
The practical response is to donate to Ebola relief efforts.
Paul Molingowski is sales director of Skylight Healthcare Systems of San Diego, CA. He is on the board of EduNations, which builds and operates schools and digs wells in Sierra Leone. One hundred percent of donations go directly to food, medical supplies, and motorcycles.