11 July 2014

Liberia: Re-Examining the Fight Against Ebola


Health workers at the front of the battle against the deadly Ebola Virus Disease were recently reported to be returning from their respective areas of assignment across Liberia, especially where the virus is reported. The attributing factors for this latest development, especially in such emergency situation in the health sector are the overwhelming number of Ebola patients and either lack of logistics, including hand gloves or their limited supplies for protection, while attending to reported Ebola cases.

Even though a number of health workers associations in the field has confirmed the ongoing action by health workers, authorities of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare are yet to comment on such grave situation. More worrisome to the health workers, is the increasing rate of deaths among medical practitioners from treating patients infected by the EVD.

As an acknowledgement to the situation, former Health Minister and Senate's Committee Chairman of Health Peter Coleman disclosed 12 cases of health workers infected by the Virus- ten of whom have already died. He further confirmed that health workers were actually leaving assignments at clinics and hospitals in areas of Liberia affected for fear of being infected. If and only if this is the situation, authorities of the Health Ministry must now re-examine themselves in order to re-direct their efforts toward the battle against Ebola with the highest degree of commitment and sincerity as it relates to the welfare of health workers in the field.

Whatever funds and other logistics provided by the Government of Liberia and its international partners must be directed to those in the field and not the office - and this does not suggest that something sinister may be ongoing. Perhaps the un-necessary bureaucratic bottom-necks characterizing the supply of logistics and remuneration to assigned health workers with the Ebola-affected parts of the country might be a major factor.

Authorities of the Health Ministry must also be cognizant of the fact that the unceremonious departure of health workers from their assigned medical posts will not only give Ebola the freedom to spread rapidly, but create the worst disaster ever in the history of any epidemics the world-over. Whether or not the US$1.5m requested by the Ministry of Health could facilitate the entire fight against the Ebola Virus Disease until it is crushed, we can only pray and hope that the disbursement of such amount will not be delayed as a result of the un-necessary bureaucracies at the Ministry of Finance for reason(s) best known to those at the helm of our national financial decisions.

At the moment, Liberia is on the brink of disaster, especially in the wake of reports of fleeing health workers at the various clinics and hospitals in Ebola-affected areas of our country. With the recent move and concern exhibited by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, those in decision-making positions must see such action by the President as a major motivation to relate to their subordinates, mainly in the health sector in this national endeavor against the Ebola Virus Disease.

In so doing, while we appreciate all of their efforts, authorities of the Health Ministers must now ensure that all of the logistics and incentives that should be provided to health workers are done to allow them stay, return and cater to suspected cases of Ebola at their assigned medical posts.

Moreover, the issue of awareness/sensitization must continue to be the hall-mark of the fight against the EVD. Even though these efforts are ongoing through the various media outlets, mainly radio stations, the Health Ministry and partners must also be vigorous in its community/neighborhood relations as a way of involving families and communities to foster this national awareness/sensitization campaign, following which the necessary monitoring and evaluation strategies and mechanics are put in place to measure the impact.

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