The outbreak many feared would return is back and has been for ten months now.
Earlier this week, I woke up to recurring news about one of the world’s deadliest and most frightening diseases, the Ebola virus. This time around, not only is the disease spreading at its fastest rate ever, it is killing patients at nearly double the rate of the last epidemic.
Between 2014 and 2016, Ebola killed 39.5% of infected persons. A total of 11,325 deaths out of the 28,652 reported cases according to data from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Since August 2018 till date, at least 1,218 people have died out of 1,738 reported infected persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo. That’s a staggering 70% fatality rate. What is even more disturbing is that the World Health Organisation (W.H.O) suggests that the number of deaths will likely continue to increase.
Hotspots Lacking Power
It is no surprise that the most vulnerable communities where the Ebola virus originates and thrives are usually remote towns and villages with very weak health systems. Consequently, coordinating and implementing effective emergency response strategies are typically mammoth tasks.
Thankfully this time around, there are vaccines being administered to people living in some of the affected areas. More than 100,000 people have been vaccinated but lack of access to electricity in the towns and villages is limiting progress.
Public health experts say that one of the most successful emergency response methods for fighting Ebola is a three-pronged approach; isolate the sick, monitor those who have been in contact with the infected and most importantly, bury the dead appropriately. But to do this effectively, access to electricity and impactful enlightenment campaigns play critical roles.
All Hands on Deck
To ensure coordination efforts result in timely and positive outcomes, all hands need to be on deck. These include alternative power solutions which are now being deployed to join in the fight against Ebola.
Solar power solutions such as solar refrigerators are used to store and preserve thousands of vaccines. Solar home systems and solar lamps are also providing lighting at night time.
Another very useful set of appliances are solar powered radios with in-built mobile phone chargers. Community engagement meetings, awareness campaigns and regular news bulletins can be listened to using these practical and portable gadgets. The mobile phone chargers keep those people who have phones in touch with families, friends and health workers without the need to travel to charge their phone batteries as they often do.
In addition to these, off-grid solar power installations can provide existing and newly built remote quarantine and treatment centres with required power. Without electricity, organizing and coordinating such complex operations can be extremely risky and dangerous for the volunteers and health experts on the ground.
A Fight to Win
To beat Ebola, all efforts need to be strengthened and accelerated to ensure the dreadful disease is eradicated decisively.
I hope this is the last outbreak.