Sunday 19 January 2020

Darren Hanniffy: Ebola can be contained and I'm going to Sierra Leone to help

Earlier this morning, Irish aid worker, Darren Hanniffy flew to Freetown, Sierra Leone to help GOAL scale-up its response to the Ebola outbreak. Before he left, he explained how he felt about the trip; how we can help contain the Ebola virus; and why Ireland should not panic.

Darren Hanniffy
Darren Hanniffy

Darren Hanniffy

Sitting here in Dublin, a few hours before I am due to depart for the airport it seems a little surreal that I will be landing in Freetown, Sierra Leone tomorrow.

The world is paying very close attention to Sierra Leone as the Ebola virus spreads across Western Africa. It is now more than a week since the country declared a state of emergency and the situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It’s worrying.

That being said, it is very important that we don’t panic. Ireland is not in any real danger. This country has well-established systems in place that would certainly contain any case. But more does need to be done where the virus has established itself.

The Ebola outbreak began earlier this year in Guinea and spread quickly across borders to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Slowly the death toll began to rise. There are now almost 1,000 recorded deaths, although the true figure is likely to be far higher.

Ebola is an insidious virus. The initial symptoms are flu-like, followed by a rapid deterioration in health. The kidneys and liver become weakened and there is often internal and external bleeding.  There is no cure and treatment is very limited. Those infected need to be isolated immediately to help authorities contain further transmission.

But the spread of Ebola can be contained. We can combat this virus, primarily by educating and raising awareness of how Ebola can be avoided and contained by communities at risk. GOAL is working hard in Sierra Leone to support the most vulnerable and those affected by the disease. 

This won’t be my first involvement in an emergency response situation. In January, 2010, I led GOAL’s response in Haiti following the earthquake. Later that year, we mobilised a second major response there to contain a deadly cholera outbreak. Our work was successful then and I am hoping that we can again do our part to combat Ebola now in West Africa.

We have a team of 200 working in Sierra Leone, including two Irish staff. I know they are all working night and day to help contain the virus, while also continuing with our ongoing development work. I’m really looking forward to meeting them and letting them know how grateful we are for their continued commitment and loyalty.

From speaking with some of the team, I know they are extremely focused, but I am sure they have their own worries too. As I sit here in Dublin, preparing to depart, I do feel a little apprehensive. I guess it’s natural to feel that way, but we are taking lots of precautions and will be very careful so I’m not too concerned.”

GOAL has launched an emergency appeal and is seeking public support for its efforts to stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  To donate to GOAL, visit, or telephone 01 905 9990.

Irish Independent

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