The people of Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the countries worst hit by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, have expressed their satisfaction with the international response to the crisis.
In a poll conducted from November 5-12 by the Denver, US-based research firm, GeoPoll, for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the majority of the respondents said they were satisfied with the international community’s response to the Ebola crisis.
GeoPoll asked users in Sierra Leone and Liberia about the most pressing needs in their communities, and their perceptions of the international response to the Ebola crisis. It collected mobile survey responses from over 1,000 individuals in each country.
According to GeoPoll spokesperson Roxana Elliot, ‘responses were very similar across the two countries. Respondents from both countries are satisfied with the international community’s response, with 45 percent in Sierra Leone and 54 percent in Liberia reporting they are “very satisfied” with the response.’
She added: ‘In Montserrado county, which includes Monrovia, one of Liberia’s Ebola epicentres, 55 percent of respondents were “very satisfied”, and 78 percent of respondents were either “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with the international community’s response. In total, only 17 percent in Sierra Leone and 13 percent in Liberia reported they were either “somewhat” or “very” unsatisfied with the response.’
When asked “What help is most needed in your community?” with food, healthcare facilities, healthcare workers, money, security, shelter, and water/sanitation as answer options, the most common answer in Liberia was healthcare facilities, with 30 percent of respondents choosing it. 15 percent said water and sanitation help was needed most, 15 percent said money, while 13 percent said healthcare workers.
In Montserrado county responses were similar: 29 percent healthcare facilities, 16 percent water/sanitation, 12 percent healthcare workers, 12 percent money, and 14 percent food. ‘As we have seen with food security, the effects of Ebola are wide-ranging, which could be why responses are quite spread out, and water/sanitation and food help are requested just as much as healthcare workers,’ Elliot commented.
In Sierra Leone, respondents had similar needs, although more respondents listed water/sanitation as their biggest concern. 27 percent of respondents listed water/sanitation as their greatest need, and 26 percent stated healthcare facilities are needed most in their community. In both Sierra Leone and Liberia, the perceived need of healthcare workers was quite low: 8 percent and 13 percent respectively.
Experts say that global crisis such as Ebola requires fast, targeted action, and, according to USAID’s Administrator Rajiv Shah, ‘the success of the Ebola response is access to real-time data.’ GeoPoll’s chief executive officer, James Eberhard, agrees, arguing that better data is crucial to tracking and stopping the spread of Ebola. ‘Research in the affected countries allows us to not only get the basic information but also to more easily map the spread of the disease and identify regions at risk of becoming the next epicentre,’ he said in a recent open editorial on the GeoPoll website.
‘This will enable governments and NGOs to make data-driven decisions on where to send doctors and supplies, ensuring a more targeted and effective approach to stopping the disease,’ he wrote. ‘We already know certain countries are more capable of containing Ebola than others: Nigeria had a mini-outbreak in Lagos, but thanks to a strong health system and tracking of patient contacts, the country is now Ebola-free. Data should be collected both in already impacted areas and the surrounding countries, because knowledge about what hospitals in which towns are most able to handle an outbreak is hugely important.’
GeoPoll is working with partners worldwide to monitor the spread of the disease and understand the long-term effects of Ebola. ‘Our ongoing work with the World Food Programme has already provided valuable data on food security in Sierra Leone, and the WFP has also just released findings from our surveys in Liberia, and Guinea. All three countries are currently affected by food insecurity, and the regions where Ebola is most prevalent have even more fragile food security than surrounding areas,’ said Elliot.