What are the needs?
Just over ten years after the end of a devastating decade-long civil war, Sierra Leone has faced another major crisis – an Ebola outbreak of unprecedented proportions.
Hampered by a weak health system, Sierra Leone experiences extremely high infant and maternal mortality rates. Unable to initially diagnose and respond to the emerging Ebola crisis, the country has been the worst affected.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), since the declaration of the first case in March 2014 Sierra Leone has had 14 122 cases with 3 955 deaths. On 7 November 2015, the country declared the end of the Ebola transmissions. Yet the risk of re-emergence is high and small outbreaks can occur, such as in the case of a new infection confirmed by the authorities on 15 January 2016.
Beyond the human tragedy, the Ebola outbreak has had devastating effects on the economies and health care systems of the whole Mano River Union countries (comprising Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire).
With the epidemic mostly under control in the region, the needs are progressively shifting towards recovery. Strengthening health systems and developing effective emergency preparedness and response systems is crucial. Surveillance systems, laboratory capacity, isolation units and rapid response mechanisms are being strengthened to address other outbreaks appropriately.
Other diseases are common in West Africa and its Sahelian belt, where at least 30 000 cases of Cholera are recorded every year, not including countless cases that go unreported. In 2012, Sierra Leone experienced a cross-border Cholera epidemic infecting more than 22 000 and causing over 300 deaths.
How are we helping?
The EU has been active in the response to the Ebola emergency from the start. All available political, financial and scientific resources to help contain, control, treat and ultimately defeat Ebola have been mobilised.
Since March 2014, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department provided close to €70 million in humanitarian aid to address the most urgent needs in all affected countries.
The funds were channelled through humanitarian partner organizations, including the UN, international organizations and NGOs.
In Sierra Leone, the Commission has provided financial support to run 'Ebola treatment centres' and community-based outreach, social mobilisation activities, livelihood recovery projects and health service delivery.
The overall financial contribution of the EU to fight the epidemic amounts to close to €2 billion, including funding from Member States for emergency and recovery measures.
Prior to the Ebola outbreak, the EU was also involved in the fight against other epidemics. The Commission supported the so-called 'shield & sword' approach against Cholera across the region, which consists of prevention measures coupled with early detection, response and treatment. It also included cross-border epidemiological surveillance and building the capacity of the health authorities.