The 2014 Ebola virus outbreak was the largest in history, primarily affecting Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa. Ebola typically originates in rural communities, however the 2014 outbreak spread to major cities and transportation hubs. The virus can be transmitted from wild animals to humans, and spread through contact with infected bodily fluids. It is severe and often a fatal illness with a death rate of around 50% in the recent outbreak. Ebola-stricken communities had many needs, beyond the initial call for treatment centers, medical supplies and doctors. Due to the damaging effects of Ebola, communities have faced ongoing economic struggles, food shortages and psychosocial challenges related to more than a year of severe disruption. In addition, survivors – including thousands of orphaned children – have faced isolation, homelessness, and poverty as a result of social stigma.
The Fund’s approach
The Ebola Crisis Fund provided financial support for grassroots community-based organizations responding to the Ebola outbreak within their own communities. This need is often largely unmet by other international aid organizations. Most of the money to fight Ebola was being given to large, multi-lateral organizations and international non-profits. These organizations bring valuable scale and expertise to provide top-down solutions. In contrast, the Ebola Crisis Fund provided a bottom-up approach, supporting grassroots, indigenous organizations. Local organizations are smaller in scale but have the agility, trust, and cultural knowledge to develop extremely effective approaches to engage with communities.
The Ebola Crisis Fund provided funding to community organizations for:
- Immediate relief, prevention, and mitigation efforts. This included training and mobilizing community volunteers to support awareness campaigns, coordinate and deliver sanitation supplies and food aid, and support contact tracing efforts.
- Rehabilitation support. This included efforts to involve and empower community members in projects to strengthen social and physical community infrastructure, provide psychosocial support to those affected by Ebola, and strengthen local markets.
- Often-neglected socioeconomic needs. This included orphan care, strengthening women’s health services, capacity building for local organizations to ensure future disaster preparedness, and messaging support to help rebuild public trust and peace.
In just four months of operation, the Ebola Crisis Fund identified over 300 community-based organizations in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, vetted over 70 organizations, and provided or approved grants to 34 groups. Additionally, the Fund supported the production of a children’s book on Ebola, accompanied by a counselling workbook, to be distributed to all grantees in Liberia at a one-day training course for psycho-social care.