Ambulances complete their work

June 8, 2015

While Ebola has not been completely vanquished from Sierra Leone, we give thanks to God that new daily cases have dwindled to the 0-2 range, and deaths have slowed even more. We recognize that the ambulances we deployed have done what we sent them to do, and it’s time to employ the exit strategy that is core to our Guiding Principles.

Last fall, while preparing to launch a new empowerment project in Sierra Leone, we were faced with a devastating multi-country Ebola epidemic. New cases and deaths were rising quickly, and the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that with no intervention, cases could reach well over one million by the spring of 2015. We are not a relief organization, but we were in a position to help and knew we must.

As with all projects, we started with an assessment. We consulted organizations on the ground, including the CDC Sierra Leone Response Team. The largest need was patient transport to move infected people out of their homes to prevent the spread of Ebola. We then began planning and formed a partnership with World Hope International, who had medical teams already in place. World Hope committed to oversee the ambulance project, including hiring drivers and training them on safe patient interaction. With that partnership in place, we executed a plan to purchase and deliver five Toyota Land Cruisers to Sierra Leone.

These vehicles were put in service the first week of January of this year, with World Hope offices in Makeni (the capital city of the Bombali district) serving as home base. When the ambulances arrived, the rate of new cases was slowing, and the need for the ambulances shifted from transporting sick patients to transporting survivors, negative testers and orphans who had been quarantined for three weeks in treatment centers. Most people in Sierra Leone do not have access to personal transportation, and the country has no functioning ambulance service. Without a way home, many would not be able to leave the treatment center or return home to their families, who likely didn’t know if they were dead or alive.

In their four-month deployment, the five ambulances traveled more than 33,000 kilometers (about 20,500 miles) and transported approximately 750 people. Six locals were hired full time to drive the ambulances, earning exceptional driving and medical experience. One of the greatest accomplishments, however, was unexpected. In this story, we provide greater detail on that outcome. A project summary in graphic form is available here.

So, it is with gratitude to God, our supporters and our partners that we close the door on this project. Although this effort was a deviation toward the area of relief and away from empowerment, we stayed true to our process of assessing, planning, executing by partnering with experts, and now, exiting.