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Ebola epidemic in West Africa

Thursday, 09 October 2014

Type of Event:
Ebola epidemic
Location of Event:
West Africa - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone
Date of Charter Activation:
09 October 2014
Time of Charter Activation:
22:28:00
Time zone of Charter Activation:
UTC+02:00
Charter Requestor:
USGS on behalf of National Geospatial Agency
UNITAR/UNOSAT on behalf of WHO Operations Center
Project Management:
UNITAR/UNOSAT

Description of the event

An outbreak of Ebola has struck several countries in south west Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international health emergency for the deadly epidemic in August 2014. The disease has claimed over ten thousand lives in West Africa so far, and people are still falling victim to the spreading disease. It is the worst outbreak since the discovery of the disease in 1976.

The latest reports indicate that the death toll for each country so far has been as follows:

  • Liberia: Over 4000
  • Sierra Leone: Over 1400
  • Guinea: Over 1200


Double this number have contracted the disease in total, with the latest reports listing over 16,000 cases. It has been estimated that almost 300 people are dying each week from the disease.

It is believed that this outbreak began in Guinea, as the first reported death occurred on 28 December 2013 in Meliandou village in the southern part of the country near the border with Sierra Leone. An entire family contracted the disease in Meliandou and died, and from there the disease spread to other villages as infected victims carried it elsewhere.

A lack of understanding regarding the disease and how it spreads has been blamed for the ensuing situation, as the outbreak spread to neighbouring countries. Cases of Ebola had previously been almost unheard of in this part of Africa, and so there was little local knowledge regarding it. In March 2013 it was confirmed that the disease was Ebola and an international response to the disease began, as it had already spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. In July it was thought that the disease had been contained in Guinea, but new cases began to appear in August.

Five of Sierra Leone's fifteen districts have been quarantined in an attempt to prevent infected persons from spreading the disease elsewhere. This also includes the nation's capital city, Freetown.

Sierra Leone and Liberia have also closed their borders to try to prevent the spread of the disease. Liberia has suffered particularly to the disease, with the highest death toll of any country affected so far. Fourteen of Liberia's fifteen counties have confirmed cases of Ebola, and the capital city of Monrovia has experienced one of the highest numbers of cases.

The leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia appealed for further aid in October to help combat the disease, and doctors and medical workers have travelled to the affected nations to provide aid. More supplies and international aid is being sent to the West Africa as efforts are made to stop the disease from spreading further.

Currently, medical workers are working hard to cope with a number of patients which exceeds their available resources to treat, due to the sheer scale of the outbreak. In Liberia, for example, there are only 50 local physicians in the entire nation. Worse still, there is no known cure or vaccine for Ebola. Ebola is an infectious disease, which spreads via contact with the bodily fluid of someone who has contracted the disease.

As of December, the World Health Organization has reported that the outbreak is stable in Guinea, with a slowing number of cases. The infection is also slowing in Liberia, but in Sierra Leone the situation is growing worse, with the highest number of overall cases (almost seven thousand infected) of the three nations.

This sheet is extracted from a UNITAR/UNOSAT atlas which features the locations of existing and planned Ebola Care Facilities in West Africa.

This sheet features the Macauley Street Government Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Source: WorldView-2 / WorldView-1 / QuickBird
Copyright: DigitalGlobe Inc.

Map produced by UNITAR/UNOSAT

This sheet is extracted from a UNITAR/UNOSAT atlas which features the locations of existing and planned Ebola Care Facilities in West Africa.

This sheet features the ELWA Hospital, in Monrovia, which is located in the Montserrado County of Liberia.

Source: WorldView-2 / WorldView-1 / QuickBird
Copyright: DigitalGlobe Inc.
Map produced by UNITAR/UNOSAT

This sheet is extracted from a UNITAR/UNOSAT atlas which features the locations of existing and planned Ebola Care Facilities in West Africa.

This sheet features Gueckedou, in Guinea, where patients are being treated at a hospital.

Source: WorldView-2 / WorldView-1 / QuickBird
Copyright: DigitalGlobe Inc.
Map produced by UNITAR/UNOSAT

This sheet is extracted from a UNITAR/UNOSAT atlas which features the locations of existing and planned Ebola Treatment Centres in West Africa.

This sheet features Jui Hospital, in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Source: WorldView-2 / WorldView-1 / QuickBird
Copyright: DigitalGlobe Inc.
Map produced by UNITAR/UNOSAT

This sheet is extracted from a UNITAR/UNOSAT atlas which features the locations of existing and planned Ebola Treatment Centres in West Africa.

This sheet features the Clinique des Maladies Infectieuses in Dakar, Senegal.

Source: WorldView-2 / WorldView-1 / QuickBird
Copyright: DigitalGlobe Inc.
Map produced by UNITAR/UNOSAT

This sheet is extracted from a UNITAR/UNOSAT atlas which features the locations of existing and planned Ebola Treatment Centres in West Africa.

This sheet features ETU's 1 and 2 at the old Ministry of Defence building in Congo Town, Monrovia, in Liberia.

Source: WorldView-2 / WorldView-1 / QuickBird
Copyright: DigitalGlobe Inc.
Map produced by UNITAR/UNOSAT

This sheet is extracted from a UNITAR/UNOSAT atlas which features the locations of existing and planned Ebola Treatment Centres in West Africa.

This sheet features Conakry Donka Hospital, in Guinea.

Source: WorldView-2 / WorldView-1 / QuickBird
Copyright: DigitalGlobe Inc.
Map produced by UNITAR/UNOSAT