Over 40,000 Africans to join Ebola battle: The numbers so far...and why hope whispers are louder

Tens of thousands set to participate in trials of vaccines, and 837 health workers from the continent have joined the fight. Is the end in sight?

THE scientific fightback against Ebola could well reach a decisive turn soon, with trials on the efficiency of two possible vaccines set to start in the three west African countries most ravaged by the virus.

Human tests have proved “acceptably” safe, a high-level health experts’ meeting was told in Geneva,  and the new testing phase is meant to ensure the vaccines actually provide protection, news agency AFP reported.

Guinea will test the vaccines on 9,000 people, Sierra Leone about 6,000 and in Liberia both vaccines will be tested against a control, with about 9,000 on each. 

With millions of doses of the vaccines expected to be available by the middle of the year, and tens of millions by 2016, we take a look at the numbers, both big and small, around Ebola so far:

55—number of weeks since two-year-old Emile Ouamouno of Guinea, believed to be Patient Zero, died. Events after his death sparked global concern, including a first-ever UN mission for a public health emergency.

8,304—the number of people killed so far in the three most hard-hit African countries, with Liberia accounting for the highest number of deaths, at 3,515. Some 21,086 people are infected, the World Health Organisation says, with a case fatality of about 60%. 

-80: the temperature in degrees celsius (-120 degrees Fahrenheit) that the vaccines must be stored at, potentially complicating the trial phase in the region, though WHO says special units will be set up.  

9—the number of countries that have so far reported cases, including Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the UK and the United States.  

837-the number of health workers from African countries who have joined the fight against Ebola under the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA). They include 170 Kenyans, 197 Nigerians, 187 Ethiopians, 82 Congolese and 115 from the Ecowas bloc. The target is to deploy 1,000 African health workers.

495—number of health workers who have so far died in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, from 838 infections as at January 4.

36—millions of dollars so far pledged to train, equip and deploy health workers to West Africa by leading business in Africa, in addition to lenders such as African Development Bank and the Afreximbank.

384—millions of dollars spent by America’s Department of Defence on the Ebola Response so far. This has included some 2,300 personnel since October, who mainly provide logistical support, train healthcare workers, and test medical samples. Some $384 million has been spent by the American government so far.

23—number of laboratories in the three hardest-hit West African countries that test for Ebola, with five more planned to meet increasing demand. There are four in Guinea, eight in Liberia and 11 in Sierra Leone.

256—number of Cuban health workers sent to West Africa in October, with another 200 planned. The country’s doctors are among its best ambassadors; indeed Cuba has more trained doctors per capita than any other country (6.7 per 1,000 in 2010, compared to 2.4 per 1,000 for the US).

1,000—number of health personnel pledged by China to fight Ebola in its largest trading partner. Close to 200 are already on the ground, where the are staffing medical units they have built themselves.

8—number of people in an Ebola burial team, according to WHO’s protocol. They include four field members, a sprayer, all wearing “space suits” or Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), a supervisor, a communicator and a religious representative, all not in PPE. There are 229 such teams in the region, which follow a 12-step burial process.

45—People aged above this are four times more likely to be affected than children. Those aged 15-44 are three times as likely to be affected than children.

30—percentage by which spending by the three worst-affected governments has gone up, even as revenues fall steeply. Household incomes have dropped by an average of a third in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and 13% in Guinea. In Sierra Leone, per capita income fell by $71 between January and October.

3—billions of dollars the virus could now cost the region, from a worst-case scenario by the World Bank of up to $32 billion, due to successful intervention efforts at reining in the virus. It could have been much worse.

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