We Go: PIH in West Africa
When PIH nurses and doctors arrived at Maforki Ebola Treatment Unit last fall, the former vocational school in central Sierra Leone was overﬂowing with critically ill and dying patients.
“It was more of a death ward than a treatment center,” recalls Sierra Leonean Dr. Bailor Barrie, PIH strategic advisor.
In September 2014, we pledged to “go” to West Africa after the presidents of the World Bank, Sierra Leone, and Liberia asked us to join the global response. At the time, experts were predicting that an unchecked Ebola epidemic would infect millions in the region and possibly beyond. Everyone at PIH agreed we had a moral obligation to do our part—not just during the emergency but afterward, when the countries’ decimated health systems could be bolstered.
|Dr. Dana Clutter admits a patient to Maforki Ebola Treatment unit in Sierra Leone.|
Over the past year, we transported 200 clinicians, conducted hundreds of safety orientations, supported 21 facilities, and delivered tons of critical supplies by shipping container or suitcase. We remain a strong partner with local organizations and the governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone. While ﬁghting Ebola, we hired 2,000 local residents, including 800 Ebola survivors, and supported staff and community health workers. Thanks in large part to the tireless dedication of our international team, we discharged 168 Ebola survivors from care centers.
“As a global community, the world should have done more, sooner. But PIH has a lot to be proud of,” says Chief of Ebola Response Sheila Davis. “We went where we were needed most, in solidarity.”
And we’re far from done. We are seeking out, accompanying, and screening survivors for serious post-Ebola health complications, such as uveitis, an inﬂammation of the eye that can lead to blindness if untreated. Staff at remote mobile clinics and the Lunsar Survivor Eye Clinic have already seen most of 5,000 survivors at least once.
As one of the first steps in rebuilding health systems, PIH is leading infrastructure projects, which include a renovation to the J.J. Dossen Hospital in Maryland County, Liberia, and a similar major upgrade to the once-crumbling Government Hospital in Port Loko District, Sierra Leone. We also continue to support and improve care for pregnant women at the Ebola holding unit at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, the primary maternity referral center in Sierra Leone.
We went, and we’re staying.