BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — As the Ebola crisis in West Africa continues to escalate, MAP International is sharpening its focus on getting medical aid to where it is needed most.
With the number of deaths reaching into the thousands, the epidemic's profile has heightened in the U.S. recently after the two infected American patients were brought to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment. Although some in this country are only now beginning to pay attention, MAP has been involved with the fight against Ebola from the beginning.
Since the initial outbreak at the end of March, the international relief aid organization headquartered in Brunswick had sent more than 24,000 personal protection kits and $6.6 million worth of medicines and essential supplies to the affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
And the organization is about to send more. Partnering with American Leprosy Missions of Greenville, South Carolina, MAP shipped out another 5,600 personal protection kits and another $1.6 million worth of MAP Medical Mission kits to Liberia, a hot bed of Ebola activity -- both in terms of the disease as well as the panic it has created.
The personal protection kits include infectious disease protection suits, goggles and masks that are key in providing protection for health care workers dealing with Ebola patients, says Kipp Branch, MAP's global essential medicines and supplies manager. They provide both a physical barrier to inhibit the spread of the disease as well as a sense of security for frightened workers. Several hospitals in Africa have closed due to employees afraid to come to work.
"MAP has a Liberia country office, and our representative there will facilitate the clearance for this shipment in customs over there, hand it over to the Liberian Ministry of Health and they will get the shipment rushed to the most needed areas," Branch said. "I spoke with our representative last Friday, actually, and he was telling me about a few more hospitals closing and just the general panic in the country right now. People are starting to die of basic health care things that aren't Ebola affected, and that's why we're sending the medical mission kits as well. People still have basic health care needs that aren't being met (because of the focus on Ebola)."
The medical mission packs include just about everything, Branch says, from antibiotics to oral rehydration salts to basic analgesics like Advil and Tylenol. A total of 150 boxes will be packed with medicine in Monday's shipment, with each box supplying at least 350 treatments to basic health care problems.
"Last week alone, we had 11 new relief shipments going to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and now we have today's. It's exciting to be able to provide the supplies needed so often, but it's so tough because we're a mission-based organization -- when people are suffering is when we're busy like this," Branch said.
And it's just getting started, he adds. Requests continue to pour in, and he expects regular shipments to continue as often as financially possible. That will be for some time, he said. Aid doesn't end when a disaster stops being a headline on the nightly news, he added.
"I've taken two trips to the Philippines in just the last eight months," Branch said of MAP's continued efforts in the country rocked by a typhoon in November 2013. "We're actually sending out a shipment of more relief supplies this week to the Philippines. It'll mean we'll reach somewhere near the $11 million mark in support."
With the shipment to Liberia, MAP will reach the $8 million mark in relief aid given to various countries in the Ebola crisis.