The American Red Cross is helping to meet urgent humanitarian needs after the CDC confirmed the first Ebola diagnosis in the United States on Sept. 30 as the global Red Cross network continues to scale up efforts to combat the worst outbreak of Ebola in recorded history in West Africa.
At the request of local authorities in Texas on Thursday, the American Red Cross provided clothing, hygiene supplies, bottled water, snacks and other comfort items to support the immediate needs of the family who has been isolated. Red Cross workers dropped off the supplies outside of the apartment so that family members could come outside and pick up the items after the volunteers left. The Red Cross has also worked with the North Texas Food Bank which is providing food items to the family. Moving forward, Red Crossers will continue to be in close coordination with state and local public health officials.
Red Cross Support in West Africa
The American Red Cross is supporting the relief operation in West Africa thanks in large part to a $2.8 million donation from the Paul G. Allen Foundation.
In September the Red Cross opened its first Ebola treatment center in Kenema Sierra Leone, where more than 2,300 Ebola cases have been confirmed, to relieve pressure on the local government hospital. On October 1st, the first patients were released from the 60 bed treatment center.
Osman Sesay, a 37 year old junk trader, was the second confirmed Ebola patient to arrive at the newly opened treatment center and is now the first patient to be released.
“I was scared,” Osman said. “But they treated me well. They talked to me, they gave me medicine, they gave me food. They looked after me and helped me get better. I don’t know why I survived when others didn’t, but I am very happy to be going home.”
Before heading to West Africa to staff the clinic, volunteers undergo a rigorous training in Geneva, Switzerland. Once finished, they travel to the heart of the Ebola outbreak nearly 3,000 miles away.
Red Cross health experts recently returned from West Africa are teaching the trainees everything from setting up safe treatment centers to handling highly-contagious bodies, disinfecting ambulances, and waste disposal. Cultural sensitivity is critical, the trainees learn, as they will be entering a community riddled with fear and anxiety. Above all, trainers emphasize personal safety. You must be healthy to be able to help and treat others.
It is physically and mentally exhausting.
“None of the mistakes happen when you first arrive,” says Alex Kumar, a trainee from the British Red Cross who has served in high-pressure medical responses before. “They happen three weeks in when you are so tired you forget to think.”
The new treatment center is just one part of a larger effort to combat Ebola in West Africa. More than 4,000 Red Cross volunteers are leading disease prevention efforts, providing psychosocial support and assisting in the management of dead bodies in the region. Money contributed by the American Red Cross is being used to strengthen the capacities of local Red Cross societies to manage the outbreak, assist with the epidemiological investigation and increase public awareness about virus prevention.
Supported by the global Red Cross network, including the American Red Cross, the volunteers aim to deliver education and assistance to nearly 38 million people in twelve countries in Western Africa.
The American Red Cross has also deployed two IT specialists and a satellite system to Sierra Leone and is working with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team to provide accurate maps to relief agencies working on the ground.
To support Red Cross relief efforts in West Africa click here.