EMERGENCY USA – here to stay before, during and after Ebola

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking to Eric Talbert, EMERGENCY USA’s Executive Director about the still fraught situation in Sierra Leone.

EMERGENCY USA is an independent non-profit organization that provides free, high quality healthcare in war-torn countries, such as Sierra Leone. EMERGENCY began its work in Sierra Leone in 2001 when it opened a surgical centre and paediatric centre in Goderich, a town close to the capital.

In reaction to the Ebola crisis, EMERGENCY built and opened more centres, including treatment centres in Lakka, Waterloo and a larger facility in Goderich.

Throughout Ebola, EMERGENCY has been at the forefront of the crisis. EMERGENCY has treated hundreds of Ebola victims and importantly continues to help those suffering from the forgotten diseases and everyday sicknesses and injuries that have far from disappeared since Ebola.

Ebola is beginning to fade but EMERGENCY refuses to become complacent. They are highly aware of a possible flare up and remain on high alert for a surge of cases. Despite the relaxation of national restrictions in the president’s speech last week, EMERGENCY sees Ebola as far from over and refuses to put a time scale on the situation.

This is because EMERGENCY is in Sierra Leone for the long-term and is dedicated to fostering lasting peace and stability. They were there during the war, during Ebola and will be there long after the sickness has left its shores.

EMERGENCY recognises, as the world should, that Ebola does not exist in a vacuum. Ebola is inextricably linked with poor infrastructure and poverty that existed even before the war and was left unattended to by the international community during the peace process.

Accordingly, EMERGENCY’s work extends into public health policy. EMERGENCY works closely with the Ministry of Health and local medical schools to strengthen policy and to help recruit and train much needed medical staff.

This is will become detrimental to the healing process as Sierra Leone has sadly lost many brave health workers during the crisis. Thus, EMERGENCY is once again looking towards Sierra Leone’s future by considering how to train and recruit more health personnel and how to adapt the facilities and equipment used for Ebola for other diseases that remain rife in Sierra Leone. EMERGENCY is also considering how to support Ebola survivors in the long run, as survivors can face health complications, for example fatigue and memory loss, even after overcoming the virus.

EMERGENCY is dedicated to praising the bravery of its health workers, both local and international who have risked everything to fight Ebola. When Ebola has passed, it is the experiences of the survivors and the health workers that will live on.

We must learn from the knowledge and experiences of these people. The international community inundates us with news on Ebola but we cannot even begin to understand the implications of Ebola until we listen to those who have been on the front line everyday. Even then, although Ebola may be passing, it is only the beginning of a long journey of exploration and understanding of what Ebola can mean to the world and how this experience can help build meaningful and long lasting peace for Sierra Leone.


Rosie Wigmore

Rosie is the Development Editor for The Atlas Times. She is currently studying for her MA in Social Development at the University of Sussex. Her research has been based in Sierra Leone and more recently medical anthropology and the politics of disease and bio-security.

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