Oxfam launches Ebola appeal to stop disease’s deadly advance

Africa, Emergencies, Media Releases, News article written on the 17 Oct 2014

Oxfam Australia has launched an appeal to raise funds to help stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus inWest Africa, warning the outbreak will not be contained unless more is done to prevent new infections.

Infection rates continue to grow with the number of cases doubling about every 20 days and the World Health Organisation has warned that there could be 10,000 new cases a week in West Africa by December.

Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke said while the UN was doing vital work tackling the illness by treating people already infected with the disease, tracing their contacts and ensuring safe burials, more preventative action was needed.

“We must break the chain of infection by equipping people with the means to protect themselves from contracting this deadly disease in the first place,” Dr Szoke said.

“Oxfam is appealing for more funds to help prevent the spread of Ebola, which has already claimed the lives of more than 4,500 people.”

While tackling the disease requires new, fully-equipped treatment and isolation centres as well as medical professionals to treat Ebola cases, prevention of new infections must also be a priority.

Factors influencing the spread of disease include a lack of knowledge about the disease and how it is transmitted and prevention practices.

Oxfam is planning to spend AUS$40.3 million to triple its programmes to reach 5.7 milion people in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and plans to concentrate on reducing transmission rates.

So far Oxfam has significantly stepped up its water and sanitation supply to Ebola treatment centres and community care centres, and its supply of hygiene materials, like soap and bleach, in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is supplying personal protective clothing for front line community health workers and burial teams, and training community health workers. The aid agency is also helping in the construction of treatment centres.

Oxfam is boosting its mass public health information campaign over the radio, billboards and text messages to inform people how to best protect themselves from catching the disease.

The aid agency is also working on prevention in Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal, where there have been no widespread outbreaks of the disease.

However, in order for Oxfam to scale up its Ebola response, further funding is needed.

“We have the expertise to help contain the disease but funds are desperately needed to make this happen,” Dr Szoke said.

“We are also calling on the Australian government to do their part and deploy medical and military capacity to help set up facilities and assist in managing them.”

To support Oxfam’s Ebola Appeal call 1800 034 034 or visiting www.oxfam.org.au/ebola

For interviews or more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367 318 or angush@oxfam.org.au