Africa’s Uneven Health Care Becomes Easy Prey For Ebola

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

Written by Selim Saheb Ettaba | From AFP

Threatened by the possible spread of an Ebola epidemic which respects no borders, Africa is divided between a handful of countries equipped to withstand an outbreak and many more which would be devastated, experts say.

While nations like Ivory Coast, Kenya and South Africa have well-equipped hospitals with specialist units and high-tech labs, vast expanses of the continent remain health care deserts.

The Ebola epidemic has taken 3,000 lives in west Africa, cruelly laying bare the frailties of underdeveloped Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

“The knowledge and infrastructure to treat the sick and contain the virus exists in high- and middle-income countries,” he said on Wednesday.

“However, over many years, we have failed to make these things accessible to low-income people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” he said.

Tom Kenyon, director for global health at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said “large numbers of specialists” from foreign countries was not the priority in fighting the disease.

“What we need are those that can provide a basic level of care, meticulous attention to fluid and electrolyte status and these other simple medications,” he told reporters in early September.

Yet even this remains an unattainable goal for the three worst-hit countries. They averaged only one doctor for every 100,000 inhabitants even before the epidemic, and now they face the collapse of their health care systems.

At the Redemption Hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia, an AFP journalist saw patients lying on the floor in mid-September because there were no beds available.

“Yesterday, we received 60 cases, and they keep coming,” Alfred Gaye, a nurse at the hospital, told AFP.

At the other end of the continent geographically, and a world away in terms of development, South Africa has 80 times the density of medical staff of Liberia.

Read more at AFP