Since the outbreak of Ebola in May this year, over 2,000 people have died leaving authorities in mostly affected West Africa countries desperately pleading for help from outside. President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wrote an emotional letter to Obama pleading for assistance.The Liberian head of state describes how already limited resources have been stretched to breaking point and how MSF has responded robustly in all the affected countries. This is after Liberia senior minister told UN Security Council that Liberia is facing a serious threat to its national existence
Just like Liberia, Sierra Leone, a country where 60% of its population is considered poor, her dilapidating health system have been stretched to the limit. Sierra Leone authorities in a desperate move to halt the spread of Ebola, closed her borders with Guinea and Liberia and even shut schools, cinemas and nightclubs.
Guinea, one of the poorest countries in West Africa, declared Ebola outbreak as health emergency and the president ordered ban on moving bodies from one town to another until the end of the epidemic. Due to ill equipped and fragile health system, doctors and health workers also succumbed to the virus.
Whilst the desperate countries are struggling with funding, adequate personnel, food and correct information to fight the outbreak, western countries are showing responsibilities to their citizen.
The British health worker who caught the virus while working in Sierra Leone was flown to London to a specialised hospital where doctors worked around the clock to save his life. William, the British health worker is reported to be desperately want to go back to Sierra Leone. Dr Kent Brantly, the American who got the virus while working in Liberia was declared Ebola free after undergoing treatment in Atlanta. Pictures of hospital workers clapping and giving Kent a guard of honour made the headlines. And quite rightly so!
So why haven't we seen happy smiles from Africa survivors?
In my training as an aid worker, I was taught that safety first! Western countries have literally proven that they are first responsible to their citizens then the rest follows.
Africa needs to take the principle of 'safety first' seriously and not 'eating fast.' They should:
Pay health workers frequently
Provide competitive numerations to health workers
Train more health workers
Encourage advanced learning for health workers
Build meaningful partnership with international health workers
Encourage exchange programmes with international partners
Invest in research
The above listed items and activities are basics that any responsible and concerned governments should be able to facilitate if not provide to its citizens. For instance, Liberia has been enjoying good relations with Obama administration, there is no reason why the country can't tap in America's expertise in health and build stronger health system. Both countries could have meaningful relationship vis-à-vis aid.
Guinea, a mineral rich country could use her resources to build adequate health infrastructure. Instead of politicians rewarding their cronies with powerful positions in the army, they could train more health workers.
I do hope other African leaders will use the Ebola crisis as a wake up call. The West will only come in ones their citizens are smiley. It is safety first not eat fast!