An aid worker from Doncaster has travelled to Africa to help local people stop the spread of deadly disease Ebola.
Ian Bray, a press officer for Oxfam, has been in Liberia, West Africa, for just over a week.
He is working with 484 local volunteers, who have been trained by Oxfam, to make people aware of the symptoms of Ebola, and most importantly educate them on how to stop it from spreading.
Each volunteer visits 150 homes each month, reaching around 131,400 people a month.
They are trusted within the community and monitor people’s health to look for early signs of the disease.
“It’s really important that we let people know how to keep safe and give them the means to do so.
“We have handed out 8000 hygiene kits in the poorer areas around Monrovia (the capital of Liberia), which includes bleach and soap, to people to help keep hygiene levels high - that’s enough for 56,000 people, he said.
Ian, from Armthorpe, said that it is important that people maintain a high level of hygiene as poor hygiene can lead to the disease being spread.
“Our mothers were right to tell us to always wash our hands and keep our nails clean, in Africa it could be deadly,” he said.
“People can catch Ebola by coming in to contact with fluid, for example blood or mucus, from a person who has it.”
He said this can happen either when trying to treat a living patient or after a sufferer has died.
“There are posters everywhere helping to spread the message about being clean and not touching those with Ebola, even dead bodies, as people can leak even after death,” he said.
Local people are also being encouraged to wash their hands regularly, often using hand washing stations put in place by Oxfam aid workers, particularly before they enter any building.
People’s temperatures are checked up to three times daily as a fever is one of the first symptoms of Ebola.
Those who have caught the disease are sent to specialised Ebola treatment centres, but these can often be far away from people’s homes.
A challenge facing aid workers and volunteers is the fact that other early symptoms of the disease, nausea and tiredness, could also be linked to a number of other health issues, including malaria.
This can lead to people who do not have Ebola going to the specialised treatment centres.
To help identify people’s health problems and get them the treatment they need as soon as possible, Oxfam are to build at least four community care centres in Nimba, a county in Liberia.
The centres will become the first place people will go to when they are unwell and healthcare workers there will diagnose their illness before providing them with the best course of treatment - in the case of Ebola, sufferers will then be sent on to the specialised centres.
“The health service is not great over here, as you can imagine, so we want to add to the health care provided to the wider population. People who have Ebola have the best chance of survival if they are treated quickly so it’s important it’s also identified quickly.” said Ian.
The Ebola crisis has also had a direct impact on the African economy and treatment of other diseases.
“Ebola is expensive to treat,” said Ian.
“And if family members are caring for sufferers they are not going out to work.
“The world bank are expecting a huge hit on the economy because of this.
“People are getting on with their daily lives as best as they can, but this crisis will have an impact.
“I hope there will be some positive impacts as well as negative impacts.
“So much effort is being rightly put in to treating Ebola that other diseases are not being treated in the same way they would have been.
“But, if higher levels of hygiene are maintained cases of some illnesses, such as diarrhoea may be reduced.”
Ian, who now lives in Oxford, is not sure how long he will stay in Africa, he said it will depend on how the work goes. Oxfam aid workers are also working in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
To donate to Oxfam’s Ebola crisis appeal, visit www.donate.oxfam.org.uk/emergency/ebola To donate to Disaster Emergency Crisis Committee, which Oxfam is part of, visit www.dec.org.uk/appeals/ebola-crisis-appeal