The Ebola virus continues to spread in West Africa, despite the efforts of many agencies and NGOs working hard to fight it. Governments have pledged to fund relief efforts across the region, including short-term interventions and long-term structural initiatives.
The Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance’s (ELRHA) Research for Health in Humanitarian Crisis (R2HC) program has recently approved seven innovative projects aimed at tackling Ebola. R2HC is supported by DFID and the Wellcome Trust with over £1 million in funding.
Starting last week, we are featuring our perspective on a few of these projects. In the first article of the series, found here, Rachel Pott discusses efforts to build locally-appropriate Ebola intervention programs.
Part three, also written by Rachel Pott, looks at an exciting test for patients suspected of having Ebola that takes only fifteen minutes — less than a sixth of those in common use. Find out more here.
Check back over the next few weeks for more.
For more information on the funding announcement, see the following press release about the funding and associated projects.
————————- Press Release ———————–
16 November 2014
New research funding to strengthen Ebola response
A portable device which can test bodily fluids for Ebola and anthropological training for health workers to help them work more effectively with local communities are among the five research programmes which the UK government and the Wellcome Trust are funding to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The Department for International Development (DFID) and the Wellcome Trust are releasing £1.34m from a joint fund to support five projects, run by leading British and international researchers, which will improve evidence and understanding of the Ebola outbreak.
The research covers areas which are vital to a more effective response in West Africa to the disease, from the development of improved diagnostic tools to strengthening surveillance and protecting health workers.
International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:
“I have seen for myself in Sierra Leone the devastation that Ebola can cause.
“The UK has taken the lead in tackling this outbreak in Sierra Leone. The first of six British-built treatment centres is now open and British funding is trebling the number of treatment beds, supporting burial teams, researching a vaccine and providing vital supplies for thousands of health workers.
“These ground-breaking new research projects have the potential to transform understanding of the disease.”
Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust said:
“Up until now, support for the Ebola outbreak has focused on improving public health measures by increasing facilities and equipment, and fast tracking vaccine and drug trials. However, without knowledge and understanding of local communities this life-saving work can often fail. This funding will address that gap by training medical staff to engage effectively with local people about key issues, improving diagnostic tests and providing predictive mapping of the spread of the disease.”
The projects, managed by Enhancing Learning & Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) include the development of a device to provide reliable, rapid and safe diagnostic tests suitable for use in the field.
EbolaCheck, led by the University of Westminster, aims to test bodily fluids, like saliva, for Ebola in a single process, providing results within 40 minutes – over eight times quicker than some existing laboratory techniques.
Another project – the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform – led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Sussex – will develop advice and training for health workers in West Africa.
The project will help staff communicate health messages effectively, assess the acceptability of drug trials to people in West Africa, support the modification of funeral practices in Sierra Leone to improve safety, and develop home nursing guidelines.
The funding for the five projects has been made available from an existing £6.5 million research initiative, Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC), which is jointly funded by DFID and the Wellcome Trust.
The unprecedented scale of the Ebola crisis in West Africa has highlighted the need for better evidence to inform more effective responses to this and future outbreaks.