Although a year has passed since the declaration of the Ebola outbreak and the headlines are fading, the threat is still ever-present and international organisations are taking time to reflect on how the epidemic spiralled so far out of control and on the challenges that lie ahead.

Earlier this month on 5th March, the last Ebola patient in Liberia had been released and declared Ebola-free, but just last Friday, 20th March a new case of Ebola was diagnosed well ahead of the 42 day waiting period before a country can be declared Ebola free.

The West African countries affected most by the outbreak – Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia – suffer from the loss of health workers, stagnant economies, and the looming threat of resurgence in Ebola cases or in additional government lockdowns that further stifle economic progress.

To mark the anniversary of the World Health Organisation’s declaration of the Ebola outbreak, Doctors Without Borders released a critical report of the global response to the initial Ebola outbreak. The group highlighted the delayed response while lives were lost and the countries crumbled against the fast spread of the epidemic and local hospitals were overwhelmed by the new cases. While the report does not lay blame upon any one group or country, it blames a “global coalition of inaction” that waited months before responding to the epidemic and implementing a more hands-on strategy.

Groups like Doctors Without Borders highlight an important deficiency in the healthcare infrastructure in the region. Speaking from first-hand experiences and from accounts given by our partners in the field, Sierra Leone had barely begun rebuilding the national health system after the civil war devastated most of the country’s infrastructure and drove out most of its healthcare professionals.

Liberia and Guinea were no better off. Weak infrastructure along with other key challenges like lack of clean water access and wide-spread poverty only served to exacerbate the spread of the Ebola epidemic. If the international community can learn anything from this outbreak, I hope that it is to make some basic investments in water wells for clinics and local infrastructure so that we do not find ourselves paying for that oversight through lives lost in these deadly emergencies instead.

Here at Bread and Water for Africa UK, we acutely feel the loss and devastation in Sierra Leone through the partners that we support there. Our partners tell us stories of how Sierra Leone has regressed to a state worse than the days immediately after its civil war. The clinics we helped them build have lost their head nurses. The schools our supporters made possible are still closed as children attempt to keep up with their education through lessons given on national radio. But the news is not all bad.

As we take stock of the damages, our team is reminded of why we are so proud to partner with so many communities across Africa. Their resilience and commitment to rebuilding is already strong. Rather than feeling defeated, they are determined. One of the schools run by our partners at Faith Healing Development Organisation will be re-opened in the next two weeks.

Plans have been made to acquire a seed bank in order to support local farmers get back on their feet. It’s a long road ahead to recover, but Bread and Water for Africa UK will be standing by their side at each step along with the many groups and members of the international and local community. We hope you’ll stand with us.