The first training session on infection with the Ebola virus, held in Dakar, Senegal on July 17, 2014
Enduring Commitment to Building Health Capacity in West Africa
Our organization has a longstanding commitment to West Africa dating back a decade. In 2005, the Charles Mérieux Center of Infectiology was established in Bamako, Mali, which includes a medical analysis laboratory to improve patient diagnosis, and training facilities where students of the Bacherlor of Science program is conducted. The laboratory also participates in the Mérieux Foundation’s RESAOLAB network that connects laboratories across the region for harmonization of diagnostics, sharing of information among scientists, improved disease surveillance, and training of laboratory staff. The network has recently expanded, and now includes laboratories and scientists across seven countries in West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo. Three of these countries – Guinea, Mali, and Senegal – have responded to the Ebola outbreak on their own soil.
Taking Action to Fight the Ebola Epidemic
In May 2014, staff members of the Mérieux Foundation USA and the Mérieux Foundation traveled to Sierra Leone as members of a delegation to assess the viral hemorrhagic fever laboratory and diagnostics capacities in Kenema and Freetown. The delegation included members of the U.S. Department of Defense and the World Health Organization, and provided an opportunity for early coordination and partnership as the international community responded to the growing crisis.
Our team has worked closely with the U.S. State Department’s Biosecurity Engagement Program to respond to urgent needs on the ground by providing ambulances, body transport vehicles, and rural surveillance motorcycles – all specially outfitted to contain patients, samples, and the deceased while lowering the risk of transmission – to the Disaster and Response Teams in Sierra Leone and Liberia, to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Guinea, and to the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali.
Motorcycles outfitted for rural disease surveillance provided by the Mérieux Foundation USA to Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Mali through funding from the U.S. Department of State.
Raising Awareness and Informing Policy in the United States
A virologist with extensive experience in viral hemorrhagic fevers in West Africa, Dr. Joseph Fair, joined the Mérieux Foundation USA team in June 2014 as a consultant to provide expertise on our response to the outbreak. Dr. Fair has been featured in several high-profile news pieces, including 60 Minutes, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and CNN’s program State of the Union, raising awareness among American audiences about the crisis in West Africa.
The Mérieux Foundation USA has also been closely involved in the American global health community sharing knowledge and best practices at conferences and events in Washington, D.C., that inform decision-making at high levels of the U.S. government, provide insight from the field, and create opportunities to coordinate the response among government agencies, corporations, and nonprofits. The Mérieux Foundation USA staff have most recently participated on panels on Capitol Hill, through the Global Health Security Agenda, and at the Institute of Medicine.
For More Information
For more information regarding the Ebola response from our colleagues at the Mérieux Foundation in Lyon, France, please see: http://www.fondation-merieux.org/taking-action-to-fight-ebola