SOURCE: Helen Keller International

Helen Keller International

SOURCE: United Kingdom's Agency for International Development

United Kingdom's Agency for International Development

March 02, 2015 02:00 ET

Helen Keller International Assists in Ebola Response in Sierra Leone Thanks to Support From UK Agency for International Development

Program Will Use Smartphone Technology to Improve New Case Detection and Quarantine Monitoring

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - March 02, 2015) - Helen Keller International is pleased to announce that it has received two grants of over $1 million from the United Kingdom's Agency for International Development (UKAID) for a three month emergency Ebola response in the Western Area of Sierra Leone, which includes the capital Freetown.

To date, there have been around 11,000 confirmed cases in Sierra Leone and over 3,300 reported deaths. The Western Area, where HKI is focusing, accounts for nearly 40% of all confirmed cases. The peak of the outbreak in November recorded 2,018 new confirmed cases that month which fell to 1,552 in December and again to 579 in January 2015. In the week ending February 8th, a total of 7 out of 14 districts reported at least one new confirmed case. All confirmed cases require full investigation to identify the source, and track and isolate additional contacts to terminate each line of transmission.

Helen Keller International (HKI) has been active in Sierra Leone since after the country's decade-long civil war, which ended in 2002, focusing on building the capacity of the national public health system, improving education for the blind and conducting programs to improve nutrition and combat neglected tropical diseases.

Under the UKAID grant agreements, Helen Keller International, working under the Western Area Ebola Response Command (WAERC), has provided management support to Ebola quarantine and surveillance officers and other technical staff, and assisted the World Food Program to distribute food to quarantined households. The project raises awareness through interactive radio broadcasts using the tried and tested 'Frequently Asked Questions.' The main innovation is the development and introduction of mobile reporting technology via smartphones and the ONA application for Ebola data gathering, display and management at WAERC.

"These grants recognize our long-term involvement in Sierra Leone as a trusted partner of the national health authorities and our ability to deploy evidence-based solutions to health crises which can be scaled up nationwide through existing infrastructure," said Kathy Spahn, the President and CEO of Helen Keller International. "We plan to remain actively involved in Sierra Leone and be part of the rebuilding effort once this dreadful Ebola epidemic comes to a close."

The mobile reporting using smartphones can enable real-time access to data by managers at WAERC and facilitate the tracking of bar-coded patient identification numbers through various stages, from initial alert call, case investigation, laboratory confirmation, action taken, to case outcome. In addition, enabling Ebola workers to take a GPS location for any household with a confirmed case improves tracking for all the subsequent teams deployed as addresses in the Western Area often lack means of verification due to large-scale urban migration during and since the war.

"Ensuring that suspected cases are accurately traced to a GPS located-household has helped increase efficiencies in the coordinated ambulance response, quarantining and contact tracing," said Douglas Steinberg, the West Africa Director for Helen Keller International. "Tracking a patient using their bar code linked to the GPS location has helped reduce data discrepancies between various response pillars. These grants enable the emergency response to become faster, more thorough and more cost-effective."

Founded in 1915, Helen Keller International's mission is to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. HKI combats the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health, and nutrition. Visit for more information.

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Contact Information

  • Yves Sorokobi
    Communications Officer 
    Helen Keller International