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

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid