Ebola Epidemic in West Africa

To date, thousands of people across West Africa have contracted the Ebola virus. This outbreak is already the largest on record, and some experts predict that in the worst-case scenario, Ebola could infect more than a million by January. The virus is spreading and has had a high mortality rate due to poor access to treatment. There are currently no approved drugs to treat or prevent Ebola.i

International relief agencies and some world governments have mobilized to assist with virus containment and treatment, and medical research groups are fast-tracking the development of a vaccine. However, despite increased local and international response to the epidemic, the Ebola outbreak has been difficult to manage. The hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, are extremely poor, and their health care systems are stretched beyond already strained limits. They lack the supplies, equipment, and staff necessary to treat and contain the virus.ii

This ongoing epidemic is disastrous for people in West Africa on many fronts. The outbreak has left many around the globe wondering how to help those affected by the disease and the related fallout.

Important Considerations When Giving to Ebola Relief Efforts

An outbreak such as Ebola causes disaster-like devastation. For donors interested in supporting relief efforts, many of the considerations around disaster philanthropy also apply to an outbreak of this scale.

Similar to other types of disaster philanthropy, giving in the early phases of Ebola relief should focus on the short term – containing the epidemic and providing immediate aid. Once the epidemic has been contained and countries begin to stabilize, the response will more fully focus on rebuilding the local economy and health care infrastructure, as well as creating emergency plans for future medical emergencies.

For additional considerations related to disaster giving, donors should read When to Give: The Four Phases of Disaster Relief. The content provides insights and context to help guide donors as they determine how they might respond.

Supporting relief efforts

Donors interested in supporting Ebola relief efforts should look for international aid organizations with experience in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea, or strong local organizations. All organizations should have a successful track record with these programmatic areas and have made specific resource commitments to work with these populations.

Currently, the greatest need is containing and treating the virus where it is most prevalent: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and neighboring countries. However, in considering where to support relief efforts, donors may want to focus on a specific interest or an area that aligns with their overall background and experience.

Ebola relief efforts fall into three support categories, each equally important to relief efforts.

  • Providing supplies, awareness, and infrastructure support by working with local partners in health care, government, and social services to deliver basic needs such as medicines and protective equipment, as well as supporting public health communications to prevent Ebola’s spread.
  • Providing medical services and training, from preparing new health workers and staffing clinics to strengthening existing health and sanitation infrastructure.
  • Finding a cure by funding research for vaccine development.

For donors interested in giving to relief efforts, below are organizations that Fidelity Charitable has confirmed are specifically focusing on Ebola and that have long-term local partnerships in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The list is organized by an organization’s main relief activity, but many of these organizations may be active in more than one category.

Organizations active in providing supplies, awareness, and infrastructure support

Organization Address Tax ID Number


88 Hamilton Avenue
Stamford, CT 06902

American National Red Cross

PO Box 37243
Washington, DC 20013

CDC Foundation Global Disaster Response Fund

55 Park Place NE
Suite 400
Atlanta, GA 30303

Direct Relief International

27 South La Patera Lane
Goleta, CA 93117

Mercy Corps

45 S.W. Ankeny Street
Portland, OR 97204


10615 Judicial Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030-7501

Oxfam America

226 Causeway Street, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02114-2206

Save the Children Federation

501 Kings Highway East
Suite 400
Fairfield, CT 06825

United States Fund for UNICEF

Revenue Processing Department
125 Maiden Lane, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10038

Organizations active in providing medical services and training

Organization Address Tax ID Number

Doctors Without Borders

333 7th Ave., 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10001 - 5004

International Medical Corps

12400 Wilshire Blvd
Suite 1500
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Partners in Health

PO Box 845578
Boston, MA 02284-5578

Please note that this does not represent a full list of organizations raising money for the relief efforts needed as a result of the Ebola epidemic. Fidelity Charitable does not endorse these organizations, and provides this list for reference purposes only. All grant recommendations are subject to review and approval by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees.

Local organizations

Supporting a local charity can have a significant impact on an affected region, as these organizations typically have expertise in both the geographic area and a specific issue area. When giving locally, donors should review an organization's operational track record in disaster relief and relevant service capabilities, and confirm that it can handle large donations.

Last Mile Health, based in Liberia, and the Wellbody Alliance, based in Sierra Leone, are two specific examples of local response to Ebola. These charities are working with the US-based Partners in Health to scale up, rebuild, and develop local health systems to better address future health issues.

Organizations active in finding a cure

Medical research is a complex, resource-intensive method of support that can require a high level of donor involvement. Currently, many organizations are fast-tracking Ebola drug and vaccine research, with various approaches to find what will work.

Donors interested in pursuing research philanthropy should track vaccine development, and consider following the lead of other large organizations funding Ebola vaccine research. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites also provide ongoing updates on Ebola vaccine research.

Additional relief considerations

Faith-based support considerations

While Fidelity Charitable does not highlight specific faith-based relief organizations, they can be an extremely effective way to respond to Ebola. Religious charities are often at the forefront of disaster relief, and may already have a presence in the impacted communities or connections with local partners in the affected countries. For additional information about faith-based giving, contact your particular house of worship or its relief agency to learn more about its role in disaster relief before recommending a grant for this purpose.

Related Resources

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy: Ebola Outbreak – How Can I Help?

Center for Disease Control: 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

Center for Disaster Philanthropy: Disaster Profile – Ebola Virus

Log in to your Giving Account >

Updated 11/03/2014

i The New York Times, What You Need to Know About the Ebola Outbreak, accessed October 29, 2014
ii The New York Times, Ebola Outpaces Relief Response, W.H.O. Says, September 12, 2014
iii © The Economist Newspaper Limited, London (September 13, 2014)