Tag: Ebola

Doctors on strike in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

A health worker gives a drink to a young Ebola patient at the Kenama treatment centre run by the Red cross Society. (Pic: AFP)
A health worker gives a drink to a young Ebola patient at the Kenama treatment centre run by the Red Cross Society. (Pic: AFP)

Junior doctors at Sierra Leone’s main hospital went on strike on Monday in protest over inadequate equipment to fight the Ebola epidemic ravaging the impoverished nation.

The action at Freetown’s Connaught Hospital follows the deaths of three doctors in two days, with new figures showing Sierra Leone has overtaken Liberia as the country with the most infections.

“We have decided to withhold our services until proper and more conducive atmosphere is created for us to continue our work,” the Junior Doctors Association said in statement.

The association did not say how many doctors were joining the action, but patients were reporting significant disruptions as senior consultants headed to the wards to cover their work.

One junior told AFP she and her colleagues were “depressed” and “losing courage to turn up for work” because of the lack of equipment.

“We are also worried over the deaths of our colleagues… which is very disheartening,” she said.

The doctors say they don’t have enough respiratory machines and vital signs monitors, and that intensive care facilities are lacking in an Italian-built treatment centre in the west of the city to which some them are due to be sent.

A source at the Junior Doctors Association said the union would meet on Tuesday to decide whether to continue the action.

The World Health Organisation published new figures on Monday showing that Sierra Leone was registering the most cases in west Africa, for the first time, with 7 798 cases compared with Liberia’s 7 719.

Sierra Leone has recorded around 1 742 Ebola deaths this year and has registered a worrying surge recently of cases in its western area, including the capital.

Ten Sierra Leonean doctors have died after contracting Ebola.

Aiah Solomon Konoyima’s death late on Saturday at an Ebola treatment unit in Hastings, near the capital Freetown, came just a day after two of his colleagues were killed by the virus.

Even before the Ebola epidemic spread from Guinea in May, Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest countries, was still struggling to rebuild its health services after a decade-long civil war in the 1990s.

In 2010 the nation was estimated to have around one doctor for every 50 000 people – or roughly 120 doctors for the entire country.

The doctors are among more than 300 healthcare workers to have died treating patients infected in the deadly outbreak, which appears to be stabilising in Guinea and Liberia but is still spreading at an alarming rate in Sierra Leone.

The virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids, meaning healthcare workers are particularly at risk, and more than 100 have lost their lives in Sierra Leone.

The outbreak has left more than 6 300 people dead worldwide since December 2013, nearly all in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

‘Africa Stop Ebola’: A better alternative to ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’

Social media is rallying behind an alternative to Bob Geldof’s Band Aid 30, which champions advice and solidarity over scenes of desperation designed to tug at the heart and purse strings of the general public.

Africa Stop Ebola was recorded before the release of Geldof’s third rehash of the charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas?, and includes well-known African musicians such as Tiken Jah Fakoly from Côte d’Ivoire and Malian artists Amadou and Mariam, Salif Keita and Oumou Sangare.

The #AfricaStopEbola hashtag is being used to share and discuss the alternative charity single, which has seen an increase in support since Band Aid 30 launched on Sunday.

The lyrics capture the collective sadness felt in countries most badly hit by the disease: “Africa is full of sadness, to see our families die … everyone is in danger … we must act”, attempts to tackle the broader issues around the disease and shares practical medical advice, like the verse sang by Fakoly:

If you feel sick the doctors will help you

I assure you, the doctors will help you

There is hope to stop Ebola

Have confidence in the doctors

The official YouTube video has been watched nearly 200 000 times and it is currently at number 78 on the iTunes download charts. BandAid 30 is at number one. All profits of the song will go to Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders, who are working to treat the virus in the region.

Africa Stop Ebola is a radical departure from Band Aid, whose tactic has been to scramble together the biggest pop stars in the world – from One Direction to Bono – and encourage the western public to dig deep with emotive lyrics.

Maeve Shearlaw for the Guardian Africa Network. Read the full story here.

We’re falling into Ebola’s trap because we didn’t learn from the Aids epidemic

A medical worker checks his protective clothing  at an MSF facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. (Pic: AFP)
A medical worker checks his protective clothing at an MSF facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone. (Pic: AFP)

I can’t help but notice the similarities of the world’s reaction to Ebola today and to Aids 30 years ago.

When Aids first appeared in the early 1980s, scientists explained that the disease was transmitted primarily by sex, blood transfusions and shared needles.

But, in fear of the deadly disease, many were quick to blame gay men, sex workers, Haitians and Africans. Some suggested that Aids was God’s punishment for sinful sexual behaviours.

In the first decade of Aids, we let ignorance, indifference, hate, stigma and discrimination guide us. We missed the point. World action started late, and we lost millions of people to Aids.

Finally, in the 1990s, it became obvious that HIV and Aids could affect married couples, pastors, sport stars, hemophiliacs, rape survivors and children. Children like me.

I belong to the first ever generation of children born with HIV. As a child, I was very thin and my classmates called me names, like “skeleton” and “Aids”. I would go home and tell my dad. He would comfort me, saying: “You can’t have Aids, it’s for older people, you are just a kid, you are my little queen.” He would kiss me and hug me and make me forget the bullying.

Blame and shame
I became an activist when I was 18 years old. I didn’t and still don’t like the Aids image in people’s minds. Some quickly ask: “How did you get it?” When I say I was born with HIV, they keep asking: “Who brought HIV into your family?” and often jump to conclusions, like “Men are unfaithful”, suggesting my dad was a bad guy.

My dad wasn’t a bad guy! He was infected and affected by HIV and the world didn’t assist him much. Instead they judged him and called him names. As I look back, I realise all he went through, raising me as a single father when my mum died, burdened with guilt and guided by love, convincing me to take medication and answering my questions. He died painfully from Aids 17 years ago and I still miss him.

One day, at an Aids conference in Rwanda, I met a distant aunt. She started describing my dad as an evil man who had infected my mum and me with HIV. With tears in my eyes, I refused to listen.

It hurts when people fail to understand the pain my dad went through and to acknowledge that he raised me lovingly and gave me everything I have now, from my name to my education.

With Ebola, some are acting like my aunt, stigmatising Ebola sufferers, survivors and caregivers.

We can’t fight an epidemic by ostracising affected communities. We can only win if we let science and compassion guide our interventions.

The Ebola epidemic is proving that the world hasn’t changed much. We are quick to stigmatise, discriminate and criminalise affected communities.

African boys are bullied and called Ebola at American schools, a volunteer saving lives in West Africa is unreasonably quarantined in the USA, and visa and travel bans punish citizens from Ebola-affected countries. Do people really think they can create a safe haven by shutting out others?

An MSF medical worker feeds a child at an MSF facility in Kailahun on August 15 2014. Kailahun along with Kenama district is at the epicentre of the world's worst Ebola outbreak. (Pic: AFP)
An MSF medical worker feeds a child at a facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone on August 15 2014. Kailahun along with Kenama district is at the epicentre of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak. (Pic: AFP)

Stigma, discrimination, travel bans and prejudice won’t solve Ebola.

Instead, we should unite against the HIV and Ebola viruses. We can do more, and better.

“The AIDS disease is caused by the HIV virus but the Aids epidemic is caused by HIV and Aids- related hate, indifference, stigma and discrimination and criminalisation,” said singer Elton John.

The same applies to Ebola. Let’s not fall into Ebola’s trap. We can’t afford to lose more people by ignoring science and conceding to bigotry and stigma.

Claire Gasamagera is an HIV activist from Rwanda, with a degree in food technology and a passion for defending the rights, health and dignity of young people living with HIV. She is the founder of Kigali Hope Association, which later became Rwanda Young Positives. 

Mali battles Ebola outbreak as African death toll passes 5 000

Mali is scrambling to prevent a major Ebola epidemic after the deaths of an Islamic cleric and a nurse, as the official death toll in the worst ever epidemic of the virus passed 5 000.

The two deaths in Mali have dashed optimism that the country was free of the highly-infectious pathogen and caused alarm in the capital Bamako, where the imam was washed by mourners at a mosque after his death.

It came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on Wednesday that the outbreak – almost entirely confined to west Africa – had passed a gruesome landmark, with 5 160 deaths from around 14 000 cases since Ebola emerged in Guinea in December.

The WHO and aid organisations have frequently pointed out that the real count of cases and deaths could be much higher.

In Mali, the latest country to see infections, the clinic where the imam died has been quarantined, with around 30 people trapped inside including medical staff, patients and 15 African soldiers from the United Nations mission in Mali.

Police officers stand in front of the quarantined Pasteur clinic in Bamako on November 12 2014. (Pic: AFP)
Police officers stand in front of the quarantined Pasteur clinic in Bamako on November 12 2014. (Pic: AFP)

The nurse who died of Ebola had treated the imam at Bamako’s Pasteur clinic.

Teams of investigators are tracing health workers, and scouring the capital and the imam’s home district in northeastern Guinea for scores of people who could have been exposed.

The deaths have raised fears of widespread contamination as they were unrelated to Mali’s only other confirmed fatality, a two-year-old girl who had also arrived from Guinea in October.

A doctor at the Pasteur clinic is thought to have contracted the virus and is under observation outside the capital, the clinic said.

A friend who visited the imam has also died of probable Ebola, the WHO said.

Traditional burial sites blamed
Mali’s health ministry called for calm, as it led a huge cross-border operation to stem the contagion.

The WHO said the 70-year-old cleric, named as Goika Sekou from a village on Guinea’s porous border with Mali, fell sick and was transferred via several treatment centres to the Pasteur clinic.

Multiple lab tests were performed, the WHO said, but crucially not for Ebola, and he died of kidney failure on October 27.

He had travelled to Bamako by car with four family members – all of whom have since got sick or died at home in Guinea.

The imam’s body was transported to a mosque in Bamako for a ritual washing ceremony before being returned to Guinea for burial.

Traditional African funeral rites are considered one of the main causes of Ebola spreading, as it is transmitted through bodily fluids and those who have recently died are particularly infectious.

The nurse who died treating Sekou, identified by family as 25-year-old Saliou Diarra, was the first Malian resident to be confirmed as an Ebola victim.

 70 perecent death rate
The virus is estimated to have killed around 70 percent of its victims, often shutting down their organs and causing unstoppable bleeding.

Ebola emerged in Guinea in December, spreading to neighbouring Liberia and then Sierra Leone, infecting at least 13 000 people.

Cases are “still skyrocketing” in western Sierra Leone, according to the WHO, although Liberia says it has seen a drop in new cases from a daily peak of more than 500 in September to around 50.

The US military has scaled back plans for its mission in Liberia to fight the Ebola outbreak, and will deploy a maximum of 3 000 troops instead of 4 000, said General Gary Valesky, head of the American military contingent in the country.

But the move did not signal less concern about the threat posed by the epidemic, he told reporters in a telephone conference.

Britain’s foreign secretary Philip Hammond announced plans Wednesday for hundreds of Ebola treatment beds in Sierra Leone within weeks, admitting the global response had been too slow as he visited the former colony.

The Ebola outbreak has also hit the world of sport.

Morocco were stripped of the right to host the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations after insisting on a postponement.

Angola had emerged as the frontrunner to replace Morocco as eleventh hour hosts but pulled out of the running on Wednesday.

Organisers the Confederation of African Football are due to announce the replacement hosts in the next few days.

In New Zealand, police on Thursday ruled out the presence of the deadly virus in one of three mystery vials discovered in mailboxes this week.

Tests on the two other vials have not yet been completed.

The vials were contained in suspicious packages sent to the US embassy and parliament buildings in the capital Wellington and to a newspaper office in Auckland.

Meanwhile in the US, nurses demonstrated outside the White House on Wednesday saying they are woefully ill-prepared to handle an Ebola case.

They were among thousands of health care workers taking part in protests in the United States and overseas amid fears the Ebola epidemic might spread beyond west Africa.

Two nurses are among the nine confirmed Ebola cases that have been treated in the United States.

African business leaders step up to create $28.5m Ebola Fund

A woman passes a sign posted in an awareness campaign against the spread of Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (Pic: Reuters)
A woman passes a sign posted in an awareness campaign against the spread of Ebola in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (Pic: Reuters)

Saturday, November 8, was a landmark day for Africa’s battle against Ebola. African business leaders from a range of sectors joined the African Union (AU) and the African Development Bank in Addis Ababa for a round table meeting to discuss what the private sector could contribute towards fighting Ebola. AU chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that this was the beginning of many consultations the African Union was prepared to have with business leaders. “We do not want to think that we have called you here only because we are in trouble, but we hope that this a conversation that we can carry forward on everything else that is happening on this continent,” she said in her opening remarks.

The  Ebola outbreak was first reported in Guinea late last year but was ignored by many until it spiralled out of control. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 13 000 people across eight countries have been infected,  and nearly 5000 have died. For months now, the outbreak has been making headlines around the world and regional organisations like the AU have come under fire for their perceived failure to effectively address the crisis.

The weekend’s meeting was a case of better late than never, but it was a productive one: a $28.5 million emergency fund to respond to the Ebola epidemic was set up. This first wave of contributions will go towards logistical support of healthworkers who are caring for those infected with Ebola, and to strengthening the capacity of local health services in affected West African countries.

The money pledged will be managed by the African Development Bank. This is the first time in history that the African Union and the African Development Bank will be handling money from private entities.

Before the meeting, a target of $30 million was set. Strive Masiyiwa, executive chair of Econet Wireless, pledged $2.5million. Kevin Balogun, Coca Cola Head of  East, West and North Africa pledged $1million on behalf of the company. South Africa’s Patrice Motsepe from Africa Rainbow Minerals pledged $1 million as a family contribution. Nigerian business magnate Aliko Dangote, through his representative, pledged 10% of the set target of $30 million. The biggest pledge came from the MTN Group, which offered $10 million.

Many other companies gave logistical support: Deloitte Africa pledged to work hand in hand with the African Development Bank pro-bono as a financial advisory to the fund. There was also consensus that the African Centre for Disease Control project be hastened because Africa needs to stand tall with regard to research and medicine. The renowned Professor Calestous Juma, representing academica, pledged to link African researchers with MIT and Harvard University. Representatives from telecom companies in Africa pledged to create an SMS short code that will enable anyone to contribute to the fund from as little as $1. The facility will be available from December 1.

There was a sense of solidarity at the meeting and an acknowledgement that urgent action is needed. It was a relief  to see Africans actively doing something about the epidemic rather than relying on ‘outside help’. As Carlos Lope, from the UN Economic Commission for Africa said: “Africa needs to arrest the infection of perception with the same resolve it deals with the infection of the virus.”

Ruth Aine is a Ugandan blogger and social media trainer. She blogs at aineruth.blogspot.com.