11/26/2014 05:32 EST | Updated 01/26/2015 05:59 EST

Ebola Is Still Ravaging Sierra Leone

Despite a major scaling-up of efforts by the Government of Sierra Leone, the United Nations, the United Kingdom, donors and other partners, transmission of Ebola remains persistent and widespread in the country, and new cases in Mali are of "deep concern," says UN Secretary-General Bank Ki-Moon.

As of November 17th, the cumulative number of confirmed and probable cases of Ebola virus disease in Sierra Leone reached 5,970 with 1,233 deaths. A total of 129 health workers had been confirmed positive for the disease with 103 deaths. And over 3,500 children had been infected, quarantined, or orphaned by Ebola. Source:

Quarantined districts and health checkpoints across Sierra Leone have limited the movement of people and goods, causing prices to soar and incomes to decrease. Consequently, people have less money to spend on items that are becoming more expensive.

Shortages in food, foreign currency, and depreciation of the national currency will put pressure on the national budget and Sierra Leone's post-Ebola recovery.

As of November 25th, $807 million of the $1.5 billion Ebola response plan for West Africa was funded, which represented 54 percent of the appeal met, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Key challenges in Sierra Leone include: shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) in most districts; a shortage of staff for case management, infection prevention and control, surveillance, and contact tracing; and a shortage of logistics for social mobilization activities.

Teams are needed to promote behavioural changes, although 600 religious leaders have already been trained on safe and dignified burials, early referral of cases, and respect for health workers and survivors. Moreover, eighty-one thousand radios are required to reach children with educational broadcasts.

Sierra Leone needs almost 350 more beds and staffing with foreign medical and management teams for Ebola treatment centres to reduce transmission risk associated with families caring for patients at home. The country also needs another 1350 community care centre beds, but challenges include securing implementing partners, supplies and training.

Ebola diagnosis should be provided to patients within 24 hours following the collection of samples to ensure adequate treatment, and prevent transmission. But insufficient staffing and lack of supplies and funding lead to backlogs.

Women are particularly impacted by the crisis, yet few programmes are focused on them. With the collapse of the public health system, the number of home deliveries rises, increasing maternal mortality and the likelihood of obstetric disorders.

The Government of Canada pledged just $1.3 million in the spring of 2014, $5 million more when the Liberals pushed for action at the beginning of August, and pledged $2.5 million in mid-September when pushed via an emergency parliamentary debate. Once Ebola reached North America's shores, the Government of Canada made three separate announcements of approximately $30 million each.

Later this week, the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie will attend the 15th Summit of La Francophonie. Will the Government provide more funding for the current Ebola crisis in West Africa and provide funding towards the health system recovery when the outbreak is over?

The United Nations needs more international responders, trained medical teams and volunteer health workers, especially in remote districts.

But beyond responding to the emergency at hand, we must also help governments deliver vital public services, particularly health care, and strengthen food security and improve water and sanitation, while maintaining macro-economic stability. Without fundamental public health infrastructure in place and without proper medical training for staff, no country is stable, no society is secure, and no country has the necessary resilience to fight 21st century challenges.

The Government must accelerate and step up Canada's efforts. We simply cannot allow West Africa to suffer on such an extraordinary scale.

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