The new medal was created to recognise bravery and hard work of thousands of people who helped to tackle Ebola in West Africa.
Options responded to the call to action from the UK’s Department for International Development to support the response in 2014.
Options worked closely with authorities to address the serious challenges in the laboratory system that caused delays in specimen testing and sharing results. In the worst cases, it was taking up to 6 days from the time when a specimen was taken to when the result was released.
Options ensured the smooth and timely flow of specimens and results. The support resulted in halving the turnaround time for test results from 24 hours in 2014 to 12 hours in 2015, enabling swift and appropriate treatment of patients.
Sara Nam, Options Technical Specialist, accepted the award on behalf of staff both in the UK and Sierra Leone, saying:
“We are delighted to receive this award at a time when Sierra Leone is finally celebrating being declared Ebola free.
This award is down to the hard work and dedication of our Sierra Leone team, in particular Austine Adeyemo, Marleen Vellekoop and Mohamed Yilla who have worked round the clock over the past year to make sure test results were returned to health care providers as quickly as possible.”
During the outbreak, many people were scared to go to facilities as they feared they might contract Ebola. This meant fewer pregnant women delivering in health centres and more maternal and newborn deaths. Options addressed this issue by collecting rapid, real time information on the preparedness of health facilities to provide safe care, and used this to encourage communities to continue using other essential health services, such as for maternal, newborn and child health services.
The Ebola medal has been awarded to military and civilian personnel who have been tackling Ebola on behalf of the UK in West Africa such as people from the armed forces, doctors and nurses from the NHS, laboratory specialists and members of the civil service and non-governmental organisations.
Speaking about the Ebola medal scheme, Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“The Ebola outbreak was one of the most devastating epidemics of our generation but we managed to stop its spread thanks to the hard work of British people who travelled to West Africa.
“As a result of their efforts, many lives were saved and the outbreak contained.
“This medal is about paying tribute to those people. They put themselves at considerable personal risk and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”
The Options team in Sierra Leone are now actively supporting the recovery and resilience planning by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation with a range of approaches to support the restoration of health services and post Ebola resilience.