Educating Communities

11.Snyder.District.SO.CDC.contact.tracing.SL.19171655782_55500ed519_o.jpg

A CDC staff member consults with a district surveillance officer by the Waterloo Community Health Center, outside of Freetown, Sierra Leone. Photograph by David Snyder, CDC Foundation

Working in Communities to Stop Ebola

In Liberia, surveillance teams adapted outbreak principles to fit local circumstances. Teams were organized by geographic sectors and empowered to make decisions related to local control activities. District surveillance officers, answering notifications received through emergency call centers, traveled to investigate suspected cases of Ebola—sometimes over difficult terrain.

Working with village chiefs, they mapped out areas of their communities so that they could react quickly. Effective strategies included the use of home-based and community quarantines, active case-finding, and outreach to religious and community leaders to allay the fears of affected households and community members.

Educating While Investigating

Arriving in Kenema, Sierra Leone in August, 2014, the CDC health promotion team realized the difficulty local healthcare workers had communicating Ebola-prevention messages to the community and the urgent need for materials. The team developed two educational modules addressing critical topics: Breaking the Ebola Chain of Transmission and Bringing an End to Ebola Stigma and Discrimination. The modules were initially used in two trainings with Red Cross volunteers and community health workers. The trainings used an innovative educational method that coordinated family-based stories with storyboard illustrations, followed by group interaction. Once trained, local volunteers equipped with a set of storyboards educated their home villages in the same way.  Community members loved the storyboards, their messages, and the interactive approach, leading to widespread use in the district. 

9.Snyder.Call.Center.SL.19177443505_dcd77a5f51_o.jpg

Call Center operator answering inquiries at the Sierra Leone Emergency Operation Center, supported by the CDC Foundation. Photograph by David Snyder, CDC Foundation

Emergency Call Centers

As the international response ramped up, citizens were integrated into the Ebola surveillance system through toll-free national emergency call centers established in all three countries and supported by the CDC Foundation. Working 24/7, operators answered questions about the epidemic and public health. They also entered requests for ambulances to pick up people with Ebola symptoms, and for burial teams to come to homes to remove the bodies of people who died to be tested for Ebola, and to receive safe and dignified burials.

In Sierra Leone, the American non-profit organization Question Box partnered with CDC and eHealth Africa to establish public callbox networks across the country.