Dulas’ Solar International division has long been embedded in efforts by INGOs/NGOs to respond to crises in West Africa. This year our focus has been to continue to aid in the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the eradication of polio in Nigeria, as well as working to re-equip Yemen’s cold chain amid escalating violence.
The most recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and has been the worst since the virus first appeared in 1976. The countries that have suffered the most – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – have all experienced long periods of conflict and instability, further weakening national health systems and leading to a lack of human and infrastructural resources to help fight the outbreak.
Health organisations and pharmaceutical companies have therefore been pioneering trials to create an Ebola vaccine to help defend against future outbreaks of the deadly virus.
Two years since the first experimental immunisation trials began in the affected countries in 2015, we have made great strides towards a licensed Ebola vaccine. In particular, and following a major trial in Guinea last year, the WHO has finally reported breakthrough results of successful prevention against the disease. At Dulas, we’re thrilled at the progress that’s been made, as we’ve played a significant role in this journey since the beginning – when we shipped the Dulas VC65-2 vaccine refrigerator to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Last month, a large Phase 2 trial in each of these three countries was announced. This latest trial (announced by international consortium PREVAC, the Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccination) is due to continue throughout 2017, and will test three vaccination strategies that address questions raised on previous studies relating to the rapidity, intensity and duration of the immune response.
But it’s not only Ebola that remains a danger in West Africa. This February, Sierra Leone launched its first National Immunisation Days for 2017, to protect children under the age of five against polio as part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. So far, the campaign has distributed over 1.5 million doses of vaccines, achieving 99% vaccination of children under 5 years in the country. Having dispatched 142 of our VC200SDD refrigerators to the country late last year, we’re proud of the role Dulas continues to play in supporting this work. A second round of vaccines took place at the end of April, with a third due in October, until the WHO certifies Sierra Leone as ‘polio free’.
In Nigeria, which remains one of three countries worldwide and the only one in West Africa to have reported recent outbreaks, the WHO has begun a new drive against polio, targeting millions of children in northern states such as Bauchi and Yobe. As a result, Dulas delivered over 300 of its VC150SDD solar refrigerators to the region in January.
Finally, Dulas also continues to support humanitarian efforts in Yemen as the civilian population suffers from the escalating conflict. According to data from the UN, the ongoing civil war has left a population of 18 million completely dependant on aid, with tens of thousands having died or been injured and a further three million internally displaced. Last month, UNICEF announced that over the past two years more children have died from preventable diseases than those killed in the violence, and has now scaled-up its humanitarian response and polio vaccination campaign. Last year, Dulas dispatched 143 VC200SDD refrigerators to support the WHO in Yemen, and we’ve recently signed a major new deal to continue the fight against disease in the country.