Ebola outbreak: African officials join Harvard experts to strategize

Harvard-affiliated experts in humanitarian disaster response recently met with officials from African countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak to discuss strategies for easing the crisis. Convened by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the August 14, 2014 session, held at the Radcliffe Institute’s Fay House, hosted ambassadors and other representatives from countries including Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria.

HHI Director Michael VanRooyen, a professor at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a Harvard Gazette article that the goal of the meeting was to give the African officials, “who have been bombarded with information and queries, a chance to turn things around and ask questions of their own.” The session may be repeated, if necessary.

Participants raised concerns that clinics are being forced to close due to a shortage of protective gear for health workers, and that people are too afraid to seek treatment for conditions other than Ebola at clinics that are still open.

“This will have excessive mortality consequences in the next few months to years,” Hilarie Cranmer, MPH ’04, assistant professor in the Department of Global Health and Population, said in the Gazette. “No Caesarean sections, no pediatric care, no vaccination strategies. All these things are affected because hospitals are closed in these countries.”

Better training for community health care workers was among the strategies discussed at the session.

Read Harvard Gazette article: Fewer clinics, less care

Read Boston Herald coverage: Boston docs look to help with Ebola

Poll finds many in U.S. lack knowledge about Ebola and its transmission (HSPH press release)

Ebola epidemic in U.S. unlikely (HSPH News)