Wednesday, 30 July 2014

On Liberia, Ebola and its malcontents

Liberia's location in West Africa and its major cities. Despite being a small country of 3.5 million, its home to hills, forests, beaches and has some of the best surfing waves in the world. It has a long coastline and several important rivers that has provided the country with some of the most fertile soil in West Africa.

Ebola Outbreak Liberia Sky News

Among the West African countries that is suffering and rushing to contain the Ebola is Liberia, one of the smallest countries in Africa and among the smallest in West Africa. Liberia recently celebrated its 167th year of independence on July 26 as one of Africa's oldest Republics after Haiti in 1804, African created political and economy system and few African countries not to be directly or indirectly conquered by European colonialists. Liberian history is tied to West Africa, larger African continent as well as the US and African Americans that stretch back several centuries. Aside from history and its 14 year civil war, Liberia has enjoyed 10 years of peace with a new generation of Liberians growing up with no memory of war and tasks of growing an economy where one third of the population is under the age of 15 as in most West African countries. Economic development and trade is still positive despite the snail pace construction of new  critical infrastructure ie electricity, roads and much need buildings for schools, hospitals and housing. Ordinary Liberians in the capital Monrovia, towns and villages across the country have gritted their teeth in annoyance at the literal snail like infrastructure development. Corrupt political and economic leaders continue to prolong snail reaction Liberia's limited infrastructure similar to many corrupt leaders in many of the world's countries.

The hospitals in particularly have limited supplies (in electricity, scrubs, incubators, medical instruments and machines for heart health, pediatrics, pre natal health, cardiology, etc) for preventative and regular healthcare and lack doctors and surgeons to care for hundreds of thousands of patients. Hundreds of nurses make up for the lack of doctors. The nurses in both city and the countryside regularly work in the country's major referral hospitals JFK in Monrovia, Tappita,  and rural hospitals and clinics caring for patients who are pregnant, in need of life saving surgery, have other illnesses and so on. With the pressure and stress placed on the medical facilities and workers it should come as no shock that Ebola has literally taken its toll on the hospitals including JFK, the main referral hospital for many Liberians in the country. Most hospitals have either closed with the staff abandoning the buildings and Quarantine areas with Ebola patients during the current Ebola outbreak that has sent the entire country into a state of emergency (after not taking the initial steps to prevent spread of Ebola seriously) and has caused the Liberian public to rightfully panic. Monrovia has five other crucial hospitals in various neighborhoods of the capital:  ELWA, which is still opened, JFK currently closed, Catholic Hospital, Redemption Hospital a small hospital that became one of the first to close its door and St. Joseph's Hospital. There are are numerous smaller clinics and pharmacies as well. Some 167 Liberians have died from the outbreak after the virus spread from Guinea via a woman crossing the Liberian border which is now closed. Guinea was the first country where the Ebola outbreak began killing 100+Guineans. Until recently, Liberia has no history of Ebola.

 Origins of Ebola in DR Congo and East Africa

The Ebola virus originated in 1976 in Uganda and D.R. Congo than spread to neighboring countries. However, the virus was contained in a short amount of time. It would reappear in the following decades. It is named after the Ebola River. There is some debate if Ebola was man made or if it was carried by water and animals. Its symptoms are not noticeable during the early stages and resemble fever like symptoms once the virus takes over the body. It is one of the world's most deadliest disease killing 90% of people who contract it. It has no known cure or vaccine despite the world knowing of its existence since 1976. Liberia's non existence health laboratories to test and study contagious diseases/viruses perhaps find cures and create vaccines further drives the public's panic. Now the Liberian borders are closed and following the death of Patrick Sawyer, Liberian, Nigerian, S. Leonean and even American airports are taking precaution to meticulously screen passengers from West Africa may or not be affected by Ebola. Sawyer a Liberian employee at the Finance Ministry who was allowed to boarded an international flight from Monrovia to his final destination Minnesota, was pronounced dead during a layover in Lagos, Nigeria. Keep in mind Lagos is a megalopolis and one of Nigeria's largest cities home to 21 million people. The Nigerian government and airport authorities have not allowed any carelessness. Regional airlines such as Aksy Airlines has canceled all flights to and from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It is unknown if Sawyer infected other passengers on board his plane. JFK Hospital lost its chief medical Doctor Samuel Brisbane to Ebola last week. Two American doctors with the charity Samaritan's Purse in Monrovia have also contracted Ebola while helping Ebola patients at JFK alongside Liberian doctors. The United States have also began to panic over the fear of a contagious disease spreading to it and across the world via air travel. The fear of a globalized diease in a equally globalized world has sent the WHO and other non affected nations into a frenzy to step up medical and health screening while brain storming ways to contain deadly viruses.

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