Posted on August 28, 2015

International Medical Corps (IMC) UK hosted a party this week in London to thank the volunteers who have given their time and expertise to assist with the devastating Ebola outbreaks that have killed many thousands in West Africa, said Gulf Times.

Tribute was also paid to the partners including Qatar Charity, a major funder of IMC’s work in the Ebola response in Sierra Leone, including support for the Ebola Treatment Centres near the town of Lunsar and at Makeni. It was an occasion to express thanks to the doctors, nurses, paramedics and specialists who worked with International Medical Corps on the ground in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea. Several of those present were recipients of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Qatar Charity UK (QCUK) and IMC UK have signed a memorandum of understanding, the Department for International Development (DfID), the government of Ireland, the US government, the European Commission,  the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the National Health Service (NHS), UK Med (UK-Med recruited NHS volunteers through the UK International Emergency Medical Register (UKIEMR) to work in a number of DfID funded Ebola Treatment Centres in Sierra Leone), the Department of Health, Public Health England, which provided laboratories, and the Ministry of Defence, whose engineers helped to design and build some of the treatment centres.

The combined efforts of these organisations have been vital in supporting the local teams in the afflicted countries through the allocation of experienced personnel and resources to combat the deadly disease. A big cheer went up in the room when a video was played showing the last Ebola victim in Sierra Leone being joyfully greeted by the medical staff who helped her to survive the disease. Alongside the date 24/8/2015, the patient, Adama Sankoh, made an imprint of her hands on the ‘survivors’ wall’. 

“One of the reasons we were able to support a large number of very capable volunteers at International Medical Corps was because of the support that came to us from Qatar Charity as well as our other donors,” Stephen Tomlin, vice-president, Programme Policy and Planning at IMC UK, told Gulf Times. “We do a lot of work with Qatar Charity all over Africa and the Middle East and are very grateful for the support that they provide.” IMC UK Director of Emergency Programmes, Andrew Gleadle, told Gulf Times that everyone in the room had been prepared to take time out from their working lives in the UK and make a personal contribution in the face of considerable risks.

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He noted: “There is a feeling of joy and pride that they have contributed to save lives and alleviate suffering. During the worst times of the Ebola outbreak something like 50% of the people who had contracted Ebola were dying; this places a huge psychological and emotional weight on our staff. They are professionals, but in most our responses we are not used to seeing that level of death and suffering.” He added: “We are not complacent; we know that there is still work to be done but there is a feeling of joy because, God willing, we are at the end of this outbreak or coming to that point. The end is in sight.

“International Medical Corps has a big programme ahead of it to make sure we embed all the work we have done on Ebola. We are doing training at health facilities, hospitals and health units and providing specialist equipment to ensure that the doctors and nurses in Sierra Leone get the specialist training they need to prepare them for the next time. We are working in support of the government of Sierra Leone, as we have done since 1999, to make sure that not only this outbreak is defeated but that we are ready for future infectious disease outbreaks.”

Laura Kelly, Head, London Ebola Response Team, Department for International Development, told the volunteers, that the success of their success is also a reflection of partnership. “The international community has worked together in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to address the regional outbreaks. We want to learn the lessons from this; it could happen again, but hopefully we won’t see another outbreak on this scale.” Some of the volunteers spoke to Gulf Times about their personal experiences.

Andrew Buckley, PhD Student, School of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, who is working on a group of haemorrhagic fever viruses called arenaviruses, trying to identify pathways for therapy, worked with International Medical Corps IMC in Makeni, Sierra Leone, in lab diagnostics. 

He explained: “The work predominantly involved accepting samples from either the treatment centre or the community, inactivating them of any potentially infectious material, and then processing the sample with a PCR test to see if they were positive for Ebola. We were also responsible for reporting these results to the local and national government in Sierra Leone, along with the contact trace network, in order to isolate any people who needed to be quarantined as a close contact. 

“Without the massive aid investment in logistics, treatment centres and diagnostics the outbreak would almost certainly still be far worse than the stage we’re at now.” Rachel Duncombe-Anderson, clinical research nurse in the Emergency Department of the Royal London Hospital, the largest trauma centre in Europe, spoke about her motivation for going to Sierra Leone. “I had the skills and it made sense for me to go out and stand alongside the doctors and nurses on the front line,” she added.

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