In the Era of Ebola
Oct 11, 2014

Josef Albers used to talk to me about reacting quickly and effectively to the givens of a situation. He said that open eyes, practical knowledge, and dexterity could lead to simple, gratifying solutions.

Many of you have already heard about Allegra Itsoga’s response to people’s concerns about Ebola in Senegal. This is a recap of her initial steps and an update on the results.

After returning from Senegal in September and then hearing that a single case of Ebola had been identified at Fann hospital, a scene of a lot of our work in Dakar, Allegra, Director of AFLK, was determined for us to help, to the extent feasible, to ensure that Senegal does not become the home of the next outbreak in West Africa. She asked Magueye Ba, the doctor at the Sinthian and Fass medical centers, our main bases in the extremely rural and isolated villages where AFLK operates in the region not far from the Gambia River, and Seydou Badiane, our close colleague who is head of neurosurgery at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Fann, where he specializes in brain surgery on small children, how we might help.

They and Allegra quickly developed a list of necessary supplies, and she determined the least expensive and most efficient way to deliver them. The goal is to ensure that, in the event of an outbreak, the medical staffs at these institutions have the necessary tools to isolate any cases and prevent further spread of the disease. Boxes of gloves, bottles of disinfectant, protective eye goggles, and other supplies were purchased, and our staff members based in Dakar delivered them in a matter of days.

In addition, AFLK assembled 1000 “Ebola Protection Kits” for distribution in Sinthian. Each kit contains a box of rubber gloves, two bars of soap, hand sanitizer, a large bottle of bleach, a bag that can be sealed to dispose of contaminated items, and a poster teaching villagers how to recognize the symptoms and stop the spread of Ebola. All items are stored in plastic buckets that can itself be used in the cleaning and disinfecting process. A team of student nurses, led by Idiatou Diallo, whose studies we have helped support through one of our scholarships for many years, has been distributing one kit to each family in Sinthian and the neighboring villages, and conducting educational seminars on how to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and the importance of seeking help immediately if exposure or infection are suspected.

Allegra also got in touch with our superb allies at Project CURE, the Denver-based non-profit that helps us bring large containers of medical equipment to Senegal. In the shipment that will be delivered at the end of the year, Project CURE will fill every inch of available space with extra boxes of gloves, and bottles of disinfectant, packing them around the operating tables and wheel chairs and blood pressure monitors and other material being given.

Our colleagues in Senegal say that these rudimentary supplies are desperately needed. Gloves and soap can mean the difference between an isolated case of Ebola and a full-fledged outbreak similar to what is happening in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.


– Nicholas Fox Weber