On Sunday October 5, 2014 Founder of Hands For Africa, Mr. Alton Harding and Marketing/Development Director, Ms. Jenny Davidson, had the privilege of hearing first-hand the recent work Dr. Dan Kelly, M.D., Infectious Disease Specialist of UC San Francisco, on the epidemic of the Ebola outbreak. Dr. Kelly alongside co-founder Mohamed Bailor Barrie, M.B.Ch.B., founded a non-profit, The Wellbody Alliance Clinic (www.wellbodyalliance.org) in Sierra Leone. The partnership between The Wellbody Alliance and Hands For Africa came about in the common interest to serve Sierra Leoneans with the highest quality of healthcare possible. Amputee survivors from the Blood-Diamond Civil War did not have access to the healthcare they needed, so Hands For Africa became an advocate and The Wellbody Alliance Clinic became a refuge. Together today we continue to save lives and restore hope.
Dr. Kelly, without hesitation, upon receiving the news of the death of a friend and colleague due to Ebola in August, booked a flight within 48 hours to West Africa and immediately responded to the call of combating Ebola. He shared first-hand insight on the devastation of Ebola; over 6,000 people are infected, over 3,000 people dead. “What I was seeing first-hand when I was in these Ebola isolation wards… I was seeing patients that were sitting across the room from somebody dying and curled up in a ball … and there for days, while their blood results were coming back … ultimately negative, and going back to the community and saying it was a horrible, HORRIBLE experience.”
Ebola is infecting people of all social backgrounds, it is not just infecting poor people, but rich people, people with an educated background, everyone. For every 20 days, Dr. Kelly and his team is seeing an exponential growth of Ebola. At the rate of its growth, there is very little ground support. There is a plea for more boots on the ground as Dr. Kelly reiterates, “we need to respond with a community based response and create a continuum of care.” The response to this epidemic has been slow and therefore services to treat Ebola have been delayed causing its spread outside the borders of Africa.
Why is Ebola a global threat? Dr. Kelly’s response verbatim: “Sierra Leone is just coming out of a civil war, their healthcare system is dysfunctional, by the time we realized there was Ebola in Sierra Leone, we were dealing with Ebola cases all throughout West Africa, so size was an issue. We were also very slow to respond and just the chronicity of this outbreak really made it widespread before we were able to react. It was really hard to control via traditional healthcare measures. So chronicity was also an issue, and then finally that it was in multiple cities and it was really hard to just track people down and try to find contacts of patients. In summary we are dealing with a fragile healthcare system as a root cause of this problem, we are looking at an unparallel situation where the size, the lacking response, the chronicity there, and urbanization are key factors in this outbreak growing to partial pandemic portions and becoming more and more like a global threat.”
So what is the appropriate response to this Ebola Outbreak? In a recent report, 1.4 million infections are expected by mid January 2015. Dr. Kelly believes that if we implement appropriate preventive measures that we will not see 1.4 million infections. Rather, Dr. Kelly proposes a 70% rule. “If we can get 70% of patients infected by Ebola into treatment units then we can affectively stop this epidemic, we can solve this crisis.” How do we get 70% of infected patients in treatment centers? “How do we get 70% in treatment centers? Especially when were dealing with places people feel force to go and die in. And nobody wants to be surrounded by white people in space suits and isolated from their families and scared.” Dr. Kelly is pleading for the same preventive measures as Director of CDC (Center for Disease and Control Prevention), Dr. Tom Frieden, “laboratories, trained public health staff, tracking systems, emergency response, and an infection control” (Oct 09, 2014 01:21 PM Video from Health ABC News).
So what is the call to action? “We need to act now, because this is a crisis situation, if we don’t, the crisis is going to get bigger, more expensive to clean up, and we’re going to see more infections here in America.”
By: Jenny Davidson
Hands for Africa
Hands for Africa is a non-profit organization working to restore lost hope to those devastated by the civil war in Sierra Leone. We support amputee victims by developing and implementing self-reliance programs and providing the necessary aid for the advancement of these programs.