Nurses are being instructed about the life-saving hygienic measures. Photo: humedica
What’s the current situation in Western Africa like?
Since September 2014, humedica and its partners of the organization Medical Teams International and of the Ministry of Health of the Liberian government have met their commitments in Liberia, supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In this West African country the Ebola fever has raged for months and the number of new infections is increasing daily. As a start, an aid supply flight has been sent with 45 tons of urgently needed sanitary products, gloves and disinfectants. Another 12 tons of medical aid supplies will arrive in the Liberian capital Monrovia by November 24th, 2014.
In order to get an overview of the situation on site, humedica coordinator Raphael Marcus and the voluntary doctor Sabine Kirchner also went to Monrovia at the end of September. Mr. Marcus came back home after one week, Sabine Kirchner stayed in the country for 18 days, visiting hospitals and health centers and, in cooperation with partners, realizing information sessions during which, amongst other things, the correct handling of the safety stuff was taught. Both are safe back home now. However, the epidemic continues raging.
What has changed since the start of the humedica commitment?
The number of new infections is still alarming. Hence contrary to the past months the number of new infections hasn’t increased any more, but it has stagnated. The responsible humedica staff member, Steffa Waffenschmidt explains that this small success is especially due to the dedication of the Liberian population itself.
Simple campaigns like “Wash your hands” have borne fruit. For us it is normal to wash our hands after going to the toilet or before eating. In most African countries they do not have this habit, which is also due to the lack of water.
Especially the children have now taken over a controlling task and observe exactly, if everyone who enters their village has got clean hands. If that is not the case, they also tell their fathers who enter their own houses ”Daddy, go and wash your hands!”.
Because of this behavioral change the World Health Association (WHO) reckons that many other illnesses which are transmitted by fluids at hand contact will recede.
“These visible small improvements are consequences of measures who had already been started before humedica or other help organizations started their work. We count on visible success of external help measures from December on”, says Steffa Waffenschmidt. “A little reason for hope.”
Three project regions
At the moment, humedica itself and its partners are committed to three regions, the neighboring regions Bomi and Grand Cape Mount as well as Sinoe, which is situated further south-east. Thanks to the support of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, humedica has employed a big team of full-time and voluntary staff members in each region.
Four supervisors have got tasks similar to those Sabine Kirchner used to have – they visit clinics and health stations. In all three regions, there are 91 facilities in all. They control if the structures introduced are still part of their everyday work and if all measures and rules demanded are still being respected.
The so-called triage in front of the door is especially important. Each person who wants to enter the hospital is registered and examined for any particular diseases, especially if they show symptoms of Ebola. People who have got fever or other symptoms are selected and being treated in specially equipped Ebola wards outside the hospitals.
In the past, this selection didn’t work, that is why many clinics had been concerned by Ebola and other patients got infected by this virus, too. Mistrust of their own health system spread amongst the population. Nobody goes to a health center voluntarily any more. The Liberians try to treat their diseases themselves and also pregnant women give birth at home. Another aim of the help measures has been for weeks already to restore the reliability of the clinics.
Also the examinations, a correct hygienic handling of protective clothing, gloves, washing one’s hands, as well as the treatment and handling of waste are part of the controls. If necessary, the supply of hygienic articles is increased.
In addition to the four supervisors, in all three regions 520 persons in all have volunteered for doing information and educational work. After having completed an educational training successfully, they visit isolated villages in teams, ask for people who are ill with Ebola there, if necessary they inform the government about these cases and inform about the disease and possibilities to protect oneself.
Moreover, humedica also supports the health supply with prevention material like chlorine bleach and rubber boots, which can also sometimes be bought on-site. Besides that, local partners who care for the removal of dead bodies, for example, and who backtrack possible contact chains are being supplied with important goods, like petrol.
The many different measures seem to take effect, the committed helpers in Western Africa hope for improvement. Also the World Health Organization WHO is giving discreetly positive comments. The statistics are still very sad, with about 14,000 infected persons and more than 5,000 deaths, and we still must assume that the people in the concerned regions will have to fight this illness for at least another year. Moreover, the development of this epidemics in the concerned neighboring countries, like Sierra Leone, can still hardly be predicted. But as the number of cases is more positive as it has already been, hope is arising with the helpers and the concerned people.
Dear supporters, the people in Liberia still depend on our help. Let’s jointly open our hands for them and show them our solidarity in this difficult time.
keyword: Ebola help
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The humedica help in Liberia is being supported by The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, action medeor e.V., “Ein Herz für Kinder”, Medical Teams International (MTI), Flughafen München. We thank all institutional and private supporters very much.