Experts debate how to tackle Ebola | ActionAid UK

Rebecca McMurray

Philanthropy and Partnerships

Last night, Sky news presenter, Dermot Murnaghan hosted our special panel event to discuss the Ebola crisis in Liberia and Sierra Leone and what it means for these countries that have borne the brunt of the outbreak.

Find out the key takeaways from the discussion below and help us do more by donating to our appeal.

Panelists: Dr Michael Edelstein, Dermot Murnaghan, Jane Merrick and Professor Franklyn Lisk
Panelists: Dr Edelstein, Dermot Murnaghan, Jane Merrick and Professor Lisk

As well as having Sky news presenter, Dermot Murnaghan, as our host, we were very lucky to have five experts on our panel:

  • Dr Michael Edelstein — a doctor who has worked on the Ebola outbreak in Liberia
  • Professor Franklyn Lisk — an economist who specialises in African development
  • Jane Merrick — a longstanding ActionAid supporter
  • Professor Anthony Redmond OBE – a Professor of International Emergency Medicine
  • Lois Appleby — a member of our Humanitarian Action and Resilience Team at ActionAid.

A range of questions from both Dermot and our guests drove interesting discussion throughout the evening, with a clear message that the three actions needed to stop this deadly virus in its tracks are: providing healthcare resources, tackling Ebola at the source, and supporting people left behind.

Providing healthcare resources

There is an immediate need for doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Dr Michael Edelstein stated that whilst healthcare facilities are now in place, many beds are lying empty because there is such a huge shortage of trained doctors to care for people infected with Ebola.

Lois Appleby, from our humanitarian team at ActionAid, explained that the key things doctors and healthcare workers need are protective clothing and cleaning chemicals, which we are continuing to provide in the districts where we work.

Tackling Ebola at the source

Professor’s Franklyn Lisk and Anthony Redmond agreed that, as well as providing urgent medical care, in order to stop the outbreak, it must be tackled at the source – in communities.

Key to this is educating the public about how to protect themselves and their families, and take actions to prevent the spread of Ebola. Because ActionAid has deep routed connections in local communities, we’re able to spread knowledge and resources quickly, via people already on the ground and in a way that is culturally appropriate in the communities that we work in.

Working with women lies at the heart of all our emergency responses and this case is no different. As primary care givers in Sierra Leone and Liberia, women have been hardest hit by the outbreak and so by focussing our response we are ensuring we are meeting their needs but also incorporating their important insights into our work.

Supporting people left behind

Professor Redmond stated that the vital action we can all take now is to do everything we can to reduce the suffering of people in West Africa.

As well as supporting those who have the virus, it’s important to remember how devastating Ebola is for those left behind. Because Ebola is an anti-human disease, it prevents you from holding your child as they die, for fear of catching the virus yourself. It prevents you from giving your loved ones a traditional burial, because the virus is at its most virulent in those that have recently died.

ActionAid has been building strong relationships in communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia for decades. We are known and trusted in the areas we work in and this makes it easier for us to give affected communities the support that they really need. These relationships will also be vital in helping to rebuild lives after the outbreak is over.

We’re working tirelessly to stop the spread of Ebola and provide communities with the resources they need, but there is so much more still to do. Please help us do more.