ebola treatment unitThe Ebola epidemic has been a main topic of discussion for months now, and while the U.S. did briefly face a couple of cases, the center of the diseases is taking place primarily in Central Africa.

There are numerous reasons why Ebola has continued to spread and defy all attempts at containment. With widespread lack of vaccinations paired with unsanitary living conditions, it is no surprise that the disease has continued to thrive for most of 2014. At the beginning of 2015, new ideas for combating the Ebola spread are being implemented.

While U.S. advocates are providing as many vaccinations as possible right now, a new solution may offer a decline in mortality rates by changing one line of defense that may be a bit easier to control: clinic conditions.

African temperatures average in the upper 90 degrees Fahrenheit each day, and the intense heat is detrimental to patients losing precious body fluids from lying in the suffocating heat. Tents and tarps are set up in the typical Ebola clinic center, attempting to shield patients, volunteers and doctors from the intense heat. But as sweat, bugs and more people gather under the tents, patients and volunteers alike become quickly dehydrated and exhausted from the relentless sun.

A new Ebola treatment unit, or ETU, opened in Zwerdu — about 300 miles from Liberia’s capital of Monrovia — and is the first of its kind to feature bamboo-lined walls and a thin, tarp-like roof.

Thomas ten Boer of the German non-governmental organization Welthungerhilfe raves about the new structures. “I used bamboo because it is hollow and helps absorb the heat … Feel the plastic on the inside of the tent, it is cool to the touch,” he said. American aid organizations are excited about the new ETUs as well and USAID is set to build four ETUs in Liberia this year.

All construction materials, including the bamboo, are purchased locally, which also stimulates the economy while keeping costs down for the buyers. Local workers turned out to aid volunteers in the construction of the ETU. “You include the community and it helps them accept your project and gives them hope,” said ten Boer. For head engineer Daniel Dined, this project hit home. A Liberian native himself, Dined explained, “I have been working for humanitarian organizations … but to work for the Liberian people, that’s my dream and I love it.”

USAID hopes to have all four clinics open by Christmas, but as Dr. Elsie Karmbor of the Zwedru County Health Office said, “we pray that no patient will [have to go there].”

– Alaina Grote

Sources: Doctors Without Borders, USAID, YouTube, World Health Organization
Photo: U.S. Department of Defense