Reliable Transportation Accelerates Response to the Ebola Outbreak

This blog is third in a series featuring examples of how the CDC Foundation through the generous support of donors to its Global Disaster Response Fund is assisting CDC by meeting critical needs in the fight against Ebola.

Benson Boakai, Ebola ResponseIn the fight against the Ebola epidemic the days are long, the conditions difficult and a fast response is critical.

Benson Boakai works with the health management team in the Port Loko district of Sierra Leone, and travels more than 50 kilometers a day on difficult terrain to gather lab samples and assist with the burial process. When the burial team is notified of a death, they respond quickly to ensure that the process is safe and handled with care. Benson’s job is to arrive ahead of the teams to swab the body, and then he waits until the process is complete before he responds to the next alert. A CDC Foundation donation provided Benson a motorcycle to use for his work, and now he’s able to respond quicker, work with multiple burial teams and get samples back to the health center each day.

The CDC Foundation is providing dependable transportation, a necessity when conducting an outbreak investigation, but four-wheel drives and motorcycles for the Ebola response were in short supply in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, at the onset of the crisis. The CDC Foundation is coordinating with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to arrange for leased or purchased vehicles and other critical supplies so that those in the field have the support they need to access hard-to-reach villages and communities. Conducting surveillance activities and transporting lab samples, patients, bodies of the deceased, supplies, equipment and staff are a few of the needs that vehicles can support during this outbreak.

The CDC Foundation purchased 206 four-wheel-drive vehicles, through the donation to the CDC Foundation’s Global Disaster Response Fund provided by Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan. The shipments of vehicles have all now arrived in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The Foundation is also purchasing more than 400 motorcycles for the response using funding from a variety of donors.

“Each vehicle donated represents more than transportation,” said Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation. “Reliable transportation for each country will lead to a faster, more efficient response to the Ebola outbreak that will translate to more lives saved.”

In addition to identifying and purchasing vehicles and motorcycles that can be delivered to each of the West African countries with widespread Ebola transmission, the CDC Foundation is working in coordination with our logistics partner eHealth Africa to secure drivers, purchase fuel, acquire insurance and provide maintenance for between two to six months. Before the new vehicles arrived, trucks were also leased and drivers acquired to meet interim needs.

Ebola Response Vehicles

“When you hear about the Ebola response, you think of protective gear and medical supplies, but transportation is one of the key elements of the response,” said Gretchen Cowman, deputy team lead for CDC’s Sierra Leone Ebola response. “The CDC Foundation helps fill the gaps and provide those extra items that are sometimes difficult to access in an emergency.”

We admire the courage of CDC staff and their public health partners who are serving on the front lines in West Africa and working in difficult conditions. At the CDC Foundation, we coordinate with CDC to provide support and resources to ensure that those in the field are safe and can respond swiftly to the crisis. Our hope is that with each new vehicle, CDC staff and partners can meet critical needs, small and large, that come up each day and save even more lives.

To learn more about our Global Disaster Response Fund and to find out how you can contribute, visit:

Terri Heyns
Terri Heyns, MA, is the vice president for communications for the CDC Foundation.