Almost 2,300 people have now died in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, according to the World Health Organisation, which has labelled the outbreak “the largest and most severe and most complex we have ever seen”.
There have been more than 3,500 confirmed or probable cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and it’s estimated that more than 20,000 people could be infected before the outbreak is brought under control.
Lancashire man Alistair Short is country director in Liberia for Concern Worldwide and is working on the aid charity’s response to the crisis.
His role includes educating locals on the risk factors for infection and teaching people how to protect themselves through radio messaging, distributing awareness posters and factsheets suitable for all levels of literacy, and the provision of protective equipment to health facilities.
Although originally from the Lake District, Alistair has lived in Lancaster since 2005.
His wife, who is from Liberia, currently studies nursing at the University of Cumbria’s Lancaster campus and his two children attend Cathedral Primary School.
Alistair has worked for Concern Worldwide for the last 10 years, in Sierra Leone,North Korea and now in Liberia.
For a brief period in 2007 he returned to Lancaster and was the Christmas Night Shelter coordinator for Lancaster District Homeless Shelter.
When he first started work in Liberia in 2001, Alistair worked on a livestock development project. But for the past three years he has been Concern Worldwide’s country director, implementing community based development programmes.
However, in recent months Alistair has found himself focusing his efforts on helping those caught up in the Ebola outbreak.
“We do this through public awareness raising about Ebola, providing essential equipment: disinfectants, chlorine, latex gloves and personal protective equipment, funding training of clinic staff, volunteers to conduct disease surveillance, inter-personal and house-to-house communication on Ebola, tracing people who might have been affected, and supporting county burial teams.”
Although largely protected from the disease himself, it’s still a potentially dangerous time for Alistair.
He said: “For most of us not directly caring for people with Ebola (unlike family carers or some healthcare staff), we are still very much at low risk by following the key protocols of handwashing, no touching, good personal hygiene and avoiding the few people who are acutely sick from Ebola.”