7 August 2015

The Ebola crisis: an evaluation of MSB’s operation in Liberia

On behalf of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, MSB, FOI has carried out an evaluation of the support provided by MSB in combating the Ebola crisis in Liberia.

Johan Tejpar and Kristina Zetterlund, both analysts at FOI, have carried out an evaluation of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency’s contribution to the fight against Ebola in Liberia and the results that have been achieved. The report “Utvärdering av MSB: stöd till att hantera ebolautbrottet i Liberia [An Evaluation of MSB’s support to the Ebola crisis in Liberia]”, published in Swedish with a summary in English, describes the valuable experience gained and important lessons learned from MSB’s contribution in Liberia, its most extensive international emergency response operation to date.

“In an environment involving a great many challenges, such as a lack of international coordination, great urgency and uncertainty as to how the Ebola epidemic would develop, MSB achieved many valuable results. MSB’s work served to stem the spread of the epidemic, so helping to save lives and alleviate suffering,” says Johan Tejpar.

“Severe demands were made on MSB’s organisation both in Sweden and in the field. The reports makes a range of recommendations covering command and control, human resource management including gender aspects, and environmental integration,” says Kristina Zetterlund, adding that MSB proved overall to be a highly flexible partner striving constantly to provide relevant support.

In the course of just two weeks, MSB created, manned and prepared a Swedish so-called Foreign Medical Team (FMT) – a new capability for MSB designed to assist in medical field operations. MSB also took over responsibility for emergency preparedness in the southeast province of Sinoe County, something that was subsequently to play a very important role in stopping an outbreak of Ebola.

“MSB had to take many difficult and important decisions in an environment characterised by inadequate and sometimes contradictory information,” explains Johan Tejpar, also mentioning that the Agency decided to alter the targeting of its efforts just a few days after the arrival of the first members of the team in Liberia. This turned out to be an important and correct decision.

The UN’s reaction to the initial spread of the Ebola virus did not crystallise until August 2014, approximately six months after the first case of Ebola had been confirmed. By then there had been almost 1000 fatalities and the epidemic was spreading explosively. On 16 October 2014 MSB was tasked by the Swedish government to mount an operation to help combat the epidemic in West Africa.