Why Ebola wasn’t stopped by huge investment in African healthcare
Friday, October 17, 2014
Despite it being nearly six months after the Ebola outbreak was confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), we are still hearing stories of severe shortage of gloves in health facilities in West Africa. Many nurses have been asked to reuse them or merely rub their hands with chlorine after consultations.
And, sadly, this is not an isolated report. Drew Hinshaw from the Wall Street Journal wrote about a heartbreaking scenario from Sergeant Kollie Town, Liberia in August:
Rubber gloves were nearly as scarce as doctors in this part of rural Liberia, so Melvin Korkor would swaddle his hands in plastic grocery bags to deliver babies. His staff didn’t bother even with those when a woman in her 30s stopped by complaining of a headache. Five nurses, a lab technician,then a local woman who was helping out cared for her with their bare hands. Within weeks, all of them died. The woman with a headache, they learned too late, had Ebola.
There is a particular irony to the story of missing gloves in Liberia, as the country is also home to the “largest single natural rubber operation in the world”, Firestone Natural Rubber Company. Although Liberian rubber is mainly used in car tyres, the company says it also supplies rubber to companies manufacturing “vital medical components”, such as the latex gloves desperately needed in health facilities in the region.