People in Hong Kong are no strangers to the fear and devastation caused by an epidemic. In 2003, Hong Kong recorded a total of 1,755 SARS cases which led to 299 deaths, in which 8 were health workers. After a decade, health workers in West Africa are facing life-threatening work environment as they care for Ebola patients. Over 120 health workers in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have so far died of Ebola, and the infected number has grown by more than double. These are unprecedented figures according to World Health Organization (WHO).
“Ebola is horrible, notorious and devastating,” said Melvin Korkor, a 44-year-old Liberian doctor who recently recovered from Ebola. Dr. Korkor was one of the few lucky ones that survived Ebola. His teacher – Dr. Samuel Brisbane, a leading doctor and prominent medical teacher from Liberia, and Dr Sheikh Umar Khan, the top virologist from Sierra Leone were less fortunate, as both of them could not survive from the Ebola virus. As of 28 August, there are 3,069 West Africans infected and the virus has already taken 1,552 lives there.
Public health experts blame the epidemic outbreak on a few factors, including a shortage of clean water and protective gear, and the improper use of protective gear. WHO worries about such a huge number of health workers being infected and killed when caring for Ebola patients as this would make it more difficult to contain the outbreak in West Africa.
“It depletes one of the most vital assets during the control of any outbreak. WHO estimates that in the three hardest-hit countries, only one to two doctors are available to treat 100,000 people, and these doctors are mostly concentrated in the urban areas.”
The deaths have caused panic and further dysfunction within the already weak health system in many parts of West Africa. The fear has driven some families to shun hospitals, seeing the health institutions as posing a danger rather than offering help. Mistrust and hostility towards aid groups among some communities have also driven up cases, but perhaps the toughest barrier to beating back the outbreak is the weak public health systems of the worst-hit West African states. [Irin, UN, CNN]
Meditation on Scriptures:
God is our refuge and strength,
A help that is readily found in times of distress.
That is why we will not fear, though the earth undergoes change,
Though the mountains topple into the depths of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam over,
Though the mountains rock on account of its turbulence. (Selah)
- The protection and strength given to health workers as they care for Ebola patients.
- Better communication, collaboration and trust among different groups when they fight the virus together.
- The needs of patients and ask our God to comfort those families of Ebola victims.