News / Africa

Ebola Batters Weak Health Systems

Health workers are handed personal protective gear by a team leader, right, before collecting the bodies of the deceased from streets in Monrovia, Liberia, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. New figures released by the World Health Organization showed that Liberia has recorded more Ebola deaths than any of the other affected countries. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
Health workers are handed personal protective gear by a team leader, right, before collecting the bodies of the deceased from streets in Monrovia, Liberia, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. New figures released by the World Health Organization showed that Liberia has recorded more Ebola deaths than any of the other affected countries. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

The three West African countries at the center of the Ebola outbreak have at least one thing in common – weak healthcare systems. Experts say that prevented Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from responding quickly and effectively to the epidemic.

Listen to de Capua report on health care systems
Listen to de Capua report on health care systemsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

The international non-profit NGO -- Management Sciences for Health –– says that “strong health systems are key to a successful response to Ebola and other infectious diseases.”

Dan Nelson, the organization’s expert on fragile states, describes what’s often lacking in countries with weak health care systems.

“They tended not to have sufficient qualified personnel. They tend not to have routine data collection systems that are reliable. So it’s difficult to get good planning. Poor facilities. Lack of equipment. Lack of supplies. Lack of essential medicines.”

He said there’s a reason many developing countries have not invested in their health systems.

“Many are financially strapped to begin with, especially those in conflict or post-conflict. During times of conflict, generally resources would be syphoned off for the war effort or for general security. Also, these tend to be poorer countries. So if you look at basic economic indicators you’re going to find that most of the fragile states are indeed quite poor to begin with and have a hard time funding even in the best of times for health facilities,” he said.

What’s more, Nelson said, these countries often lack infrastructure for educating and training health personnel.

Also many health workers come under attack, not only in conflict situations, but in the Ebola-affected countries. Many have been threatened by residents of towns and villages when they have attempted to deal with the Ebola outbreak. Much of that has been blamed on fear and stigma surrounding the disease.

There’s also a shortage of health workers in developing countries. Many leave for better jobs in richer nations.

In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, many health workers, themselves, have been infected by the Ebola virus.

Nelson said, “Generally, the healthcare workers are on the front line. Sometimes they’re insufficiently trained to deal with a situation like this and sometimes they have insufficient equipment. You see the WHO, CDC people coming in with these contamination suits in which they bare completely blocked from a threat of contamination. And even with those suits sometimes you still find some contamination. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Despite having the suit you can still have a needle stick that would puncture the suit and you could still become infected.”

The Management Sciences for Health official said in building a strong health care system it’s very important to get women involved. Also, the system needs to be resilient -- strong enough to withstand shocks and trauma. The Ebola outbreak and natural disasters are two examples.

“Especially in Africa where most of my experience is you find that there’s [an] amazing amount of creativity in problem solving. They’re used to working in situations with very poor infrastructure and they’re used to being able to get things done. But they do need resources,” he said.

He added it’s important to work with the local population in building health systems. He says when bringing in outside medical personnel to help in a crisis, they should be made familiar with the local culture and customs.

One of the problems health workers have faced in the Ebola outbreak is a denial among some that the disease even exists. Nelson says targeted education campaigns can help. This includes the use of local radio in rural areas. 

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boyi
X
Jeff Seldin
March 05, 2015 2:36 AM
A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More