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R2HC-funded research by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, highlights the need for – and power of – research conducted during a humanitarian crisis.

Credit: Medici con l'Africa Cuamm
Credit: Medici con l’Africa Cuamm

In December 2013 the world’s largest epidemic of the Ebola virus broke out, affecting thousands of people in West Africa. New research by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine suggests that 57,000 Ebola cases were prevented up to February 2015 due to the introduction of treatment beds and estimate that 40,000 lives were saved in Sierra Leone.

This research, funded by ELRHA’s Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme, focused on the impact of beds due to limited available data on other control measures in some districts of Sierra Leone. The new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, estimates – through mathematical modelling – that the introduction of treatment beds just one month earlier could have prevented an additional 12,5000 Ebola cases and almost halved the outbreak.

Study co-author Professor John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “There has been much criticism of the international community’s slow response to the Ebola outbreak. Our analysis suggests putting treatment beds in place just one month earlier could have further reduced the size of the outbreak and potentially saved thousands of more lives. The way we prepare for, and respond to, future outbreaks of Ebola and other infectious diseases needs to be strengthened.”

The R2HC programme was set up to improve the evidence base on which public health aid decisions are made; with compelling evidence such as this, which separates the effect of beds from other factors that reduced transmission, such as behaviour change and community engagement, the evidence is there to strongly inform public health decisions if a future health epidemic of this kind occurs.

Read the full report here.

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