Health & wellness

Partners in Health staff to join African Ebola fight

Health workers in Liberia removed the body of an Ebola victim. A Boston organization is sending staff to help in rural parts of the country.
REUTERS/James Giahyue
Health workers in Liberia removed the body of an Ebola victim. A Boston organization is sending staff to help in rural parts of the country.

Seven leaders of Partners in Health, the Boston-based international aid organization, are heading to Liberia Monday night to help fight Ebola in rural areas of that country and Sierra Leone.

Although the organization was spurred to action by the Ebola epidemic, the organization’s objectives extend beyond helping with the immediate emergency to establishing a long-term presence, said Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder and chief strategist.

Partners in Health will be teaming up with two organizations with which it already had a relationship, Last Mile Health in Liberia and Wellbody Alliance in Sierra Leone.

Advertisement

“We expect we’ll be able to bring in scores of providers within very short order and also to train hundreds on the ground,” Farmer said in an interview Monday morning. But Partners in Health intends to continue working with local health care officials and professionals to bolster the health care system for the long haul, in a significant expansion of its work that was approved by its board late last week.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

While much attention has focused on the cities, Farmer believes Ebola has spread to the rural areas as well. The Partners in Health leaders plans to travel to these areas over the next few days to assess the needs, before returning home to marshal resources. The agency has already launched an appeal for staff and supplies.

“The question is, how do we get out in front of the epidemic?” he said. Ebola, he said, doesn’t need to be so deadly; he noted the 100 percent survival rate among American aid workers who were infected and received advanced care.

Partners in Health is not primarily an emergency-response group, although it has experience with emergencies, such as the Haiti earthquake. But Farmer said he felt a “pervasive anxiety” about the needlessly high death rate from Ebola and now is “relieved” to be heading out there to help.

His first stop will be a meeting with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Felice J. Freyer can be reached at felice.freyer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @felicejfreyer