Category Archives: Health

USE THE BLOOD OF EBOLA SURVIVORS


I was on my normal routine reading through the online news of some local and international media. Since the intensity of the Ebola outbreak, my visits to the online features have increased. I searched with the expectation of reading encouraging news in relation to curbing the epidemic. Prior to my search, I understood that a group of global experts via the World Health Organization (WHO) convened a meeting on the Ebola epidemic. High on the agenda were discussions on the use of experimental therapies to combat the disease that has snatched the lives of over 2000 persons in West Africa. I went online to abreast myself with the outcome of the meeting. While searching, I came across a news caption ” Use Ebola Survivors’ Blood- WHO” on BBC News. It sounded interesting. In as much vaccines are under human tests, the Zmapp doses are running or have run out of stock, there is still a therapy to hope on in addition to the supportive care given to patients.

In a week or two prior to this welcoming news, I watched the Nova Documentary on the blood transfusion therapy on Liberia’s National Television station. According to the documentary, the therapy was used by some Congolese doctors in 1995 at the Kikwit General Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When one of the nurses working at the treatment center in Kikwit contracted the disease, the Congolese doctors told themselves that they will do everything within their reach to save the life of their fellow health worker. On a night, they convened a meeting of only Congolese doctors to find a medical means to save the ill nurse. They agreed to infuse the blood of an Ebola survivor into the nurse. The meeting outcome was brought before the international health workers working at the same treatment center.The foreign health workers rejected the suggestion on grounds that there was not advance equipment to test the survivor’s blood for all other diseases. They furthered that the therapy had never been performed in such situation and there was no guarantee that it would work. The local doctors had no other option, but persisted and conducted the transfusion. In some hours, there was some improvements in the nurse’s health. The doctors further conducted the therapy on eight patients including the nurse. Seven of the eight patients recovered. After seeing the documentary, I asked myself “aren’t doctors using similar therapy in countries affected by the disease?”. There was a 87.5% survival rate of the eight ill persons the therapy was used on . ” Why would not it be positive on patients in West Africa?” I asked myself. Some reports had it that a 14 year old survivor serum was used to treat Dr. Kent Brantly when he got infected prior to his departure to the US for further treatment. I got reports that he was able to take shower before departing Liberia and also walked out of the ambulance that carried him from the airport to the treatment center in the US. Is the survivor blood transfusion therapy being used to treat many people in affected countries?

WHO approval of the therapy had me saying ” the Congolese health workers that conducted the first transfusion are the inventors and they need to be thanked”. If not for their bravery and persistence, I doubt whether we would had known about such treatment. Even though it is not widely known in West Africa, but I am of the conviction that it will surely work pointing to the success the therapy had in Congo. If there are rewards to be given to inventors such as these, I think institutions responsible should begin planning the award ceremony for the Congolese health workers who braved the odds to experiment such therapy.

The disease has killed many people in West Africa. The weak health systems and traditional practices in Africa are impeding the fight to exterminate the disease out of Africa. With advances being made to finding vaccines and drugs for this illness, I believe that the approved therapy will help in curing people from the disease. Health workers in these affected countries should be urged to begin or resume the transfusion of survivors’ blood into patients with all the precautions taken into consideration. I am not a medical practitioner, but I do trust the judgement of WHO. I am convinced that this therapy will yield fruitful results. I laud the efforts of WHO in ensuring that medications are discovered and made available to help end this epidemic and prevent subsequent outbreaks. I also applaud the works of local and international health workers who are on the frontlines combating the disease, scientists studying to produce medication, and governments and institutions rendering support to help eradicate the disease. It should be noted that the easiest and most effective way to fighting this disease is by prevention. Staying away from infected patients and bodies, washing hands very often, stopping the consumption of bush meats and bats, and reporting suspected cases are all means of preventing ourselves. If we can implement these simple precautionary methods, I am of the opinion that not one more person will get infected with the virus. We all are hoping and praying we succeed in this fight very soon and go back to normality to alleviate the fears and suffering of people.

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NUMBER OF DOCTORS IN LIBERIA


It is usually said that the more than fourteen years of civil war that was fought in Liberia destroyed all fabric of the Liberian society. I undoubtedly agree with this statement. The crisis affected all sectors including the health sector. But the question remains ” how many years have we enjoyed peace after the more than fourteen years of civil war?” The last time I checked, we were celebrating ten years of of peace. Presently, we have enjoyed a little over ten years of peace. This achievement would not have been possible without the needed intervention of the international community beginning with the good people of Nigeria. Nigeria has always aided us whenever we needed help. They have always been the first country of response, sending peacekeepers to Liberia to curb whatever crisis.

This should be underscored ” Ten Years of Peace”. Even though fragile as many experts have asserted due to the shady economy, and other social vices, but the guns have been silent for over ten years. This has triggered the conduct of two successive and peaceful elections. The 2005 presidential election brought to the presidency, the first female President in Africa, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She has gone further to winning her second term(2011). Additionally, her government enjoys the “sweet” of the international community which has led to the acceptance of Liberia in the comity of nations. Unlike in the dark days, Liberians have some level of acceptance from other countries. With the international acceptance and investment from some of the world’s top companies, some pundits have revealed that the “sweet” has not triggered down to the common citizens. They averred that the high rate of weakness of the economy, corruption and other vices proved that the international acceptance and investment do not impart the lives of Liberians. With the existence of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, experts are analyzing the effects of the disease on the already weak economy with unemployment rate very high, the weak health system and holistically, the lives of Liberians.

With all of these problems, my attention is focused on the health sector. The sector has been negatively overwhelmed with the Ebola epidemic. Health workers are at the full front in combating this illness. In the midst of limited numbers of health workers especially doctors, they are falling prey to the disease. The deaths of these health workers have been highly attributed to the lack of equipment especially protective gears. I watched a report from Dr. Richard Blesser of abc News through which I saw health workers at one of the Ebola treatment centers in Liberia used makeshift contamination suit to protect themselves in order to treat patients. They improvised to make some pieces of the protective gear out of contamination suit due to the insufficient protective clothing. Liberia Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale in an interview with Jonathan Paye-Layleh of BBC News in 2007, informed that Liberia had 120 trained doctors and 70 of those doctors was foreign doctors. He further averred that Liberia needed at least 1200 doctors to grapple with the huge demand in the health sector. In a recent statement which was published by the International Business Times, Dr. Frank Glover, who worked with the Christian charity, SIM in Liberia for more than three years, testified before a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the US. He said “This Ebola outbreak in Liberia has exposed the country’s inherently weak health system,”. He informed further “Less than 200 doctors existed in this country of 4 million people prior to this epidemic. After the outbreak in March of this year, that number plummeted to only 50 doctors.” Unfortunately, there is no straight data on the number of doctors in Liberia. But if Dr. Glover and Health Minister’s statements are anything to go by, it indicates that Liberia still has a lot to do in training doctors to cope with the enormous problems that exist in the health sector. Liberia has two medical institutions that train Medical Doctors ( A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine and Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons, a post graduate program established to train medical specialists in surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology to independently manage surgical and medical problems ( allAfrica.com)). The latter is not even in full swing. Health authorities have revealed the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine produces between 6 to 12 graduates each year which is insufficient for the population. I am being informed by some students of A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine that they have not been paid their stipends for some months now. Now, the questions being asked are ” Are there not many students interested in becoming doctors? Is the government not paying enough attention to the health sector(improving schools, provision or medical equipment, increasing incentives for health workers and others)? Are other institutions not investing into the health sector? Does the Ministry of Health have control on health issues in the country?”

In my previous posts, I emphasized that the Ebola Epidemic has hugely and glaringly uncovered the weakness of the health system. It has further scattered apart the sector. We are now enjoying over 10 years of peace with enormous international support. One would had thought that the extreme deficiency in the health sector could have been improved to an appreciable level to cater to the needs of the growing population. Education, employment, politics and every other thing cannot be possible when people are ill. After all of this, the government, international community, other institutions, Liberians will all need to help in improving the health system.

WANEP WOMEN


My youngest brother and I were in a taxi returning home from our grandmother’s residence. When we reached the back of the James Springgs Payne Airport which is opposite the resident of the President (Fish Market Community), something caught his attention. I questioned him, ” why are you stretching yourself?”. He replied asking me and trying to peep through the windshield of the taxi “why are the women lying on the ground and in the rain?”. I smiled knowing that he is very young to understand the positive contributions of those women towards Liberia.

He is a curious little kid and he pushed me to give him some information as to why the women were lying on the ground, and in the rain praying. It was strange to him. I informed him that the women ,that I consider our mothers, are part of an organization named the West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP). The organization introduced the program in 2002. In addition to mobilizing women for the promotion of peace, the program builds the capacity of women in peace-building and to become self sufficient. In 2003, the women mobilized a mass and non-violent demonstration in order to ensure a peaceful negotiation between the then Charles Taylor led government, and the rebel groups (the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL))and others political parties to cease fire, begin negotiation and restore peace in Liberia. The efforts of their positive work were inherent in the signing of the Accra Ceasefire Agreement and subsequently, the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The work of these women were backed by prayers. They spent many days and nights in the open field lying in the sand and praying to God for Peace in Liberia.

My brother’s continuous questions had a flashback effect on me. As young as I was during the crisis, I remembered seeing the women in their white t-shirts fasting and praying for Liberia. Those were the days that no peaceful Liberian will wish to see. I am being informed that they have begun fourteen days of fast and prayer to save Liberia from the Lethal Ebola disease. With the Ebola virus raging, I knew the women would resume their prayers. So, it was no surprise that I saw our mothers praying to God again for Liberia.

These women are one of the foundations for the restoration of peace in Liberia. Their cries, prayers are always heard by God. What amazes me is the mode of their prayer. They lie flat in the sand in the open, and fast and pray to God. They do this whether it is rainy or sunny. Anyone that does not know the intent of these women will think somehow. But these are market women, housewives, and professionals who put aside their important activities to gather and pray for the country. Liberia is under attack. In this case, the Ebola disease is our enemy. In addition to other efforts, we need the intervention of the Women of WANEP. Their fourteen days fast and prayers (in the rain) calling for God’s intervention to eradicate this disease is welcomed and commendable. I know that God will answer their prayers and heal our land.

I am of the opinion that these are the heroines of Liberia. They should be shown all manner of respect. We should hail them not only in the times of crisis, but also in good times. Women of WAPNET, thank you. My brother got to understand the reason why you are in the sand and praying.

” YES!” TO THE USE OF EXPERIMENTAL DRUGS


I woke up this morning to the loud ringtone of my phone. I got up and ran to the table to pickup the call. I picked-up the phone and saw a familiar number calling. The caller asked ” can I have an interview with you”? I replied asking what the interview was about . The would-be interviewer informed me that there are reports that the government of Liberia via its President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has communicated with the United States Government via President Obama, for the use of the experimental drug (Zmapp). Indeed, the United States Government through its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consented to Liberia’s request to use the drug on two Liberian doctors. I agreed to have the interview later. Subsequently, I ran to my ipad switched on the Internet and quickly reached for the Front Page Africa website to get myself apprised. Front Page Africa carried the story confirming my would-be interviewer’s information. Additionally, I understood that the World Health Organization (WHO) also agreed to send additional doses of the experimental serum to Liberia.

After reading the article, the moment was like ” wow! Is this really happening?”. In my previous article named, Cater to Health Workers, I stressed the need for the Liberian government to ask the United States government for the possible usage of the experimental drug in Liberia. So I was elated by the news.

In little discussions, people were analyzing the negatives and positives of the used of the drug in Liberia. Some asserted that the drug has only been used on two humans that contracted the Ebola Virus in Liberia. Even though it proved to be working well on the two American Health Workers, but is that sufficient to think that same will happen to the two Liberian doctors or others that will be treated with the drug?Already there are thoughts in some corridors of Africa, that the West experiments on Africans which subsequently results into such disease as the Ebola Virus. In addition, some health experts have advised that the used of experimental drugs is not the best way to curbing this epidemic. They stressed the need for prevention, awareness, quarantining and contact tracing.

In my little corner, I began to analyze their comments from a different viewpoint. The disease has a 60 to 90% mortality rate which indicates that a victim has between 10 to 40% survival rate. The chances of death is higher than the chances of living. Additionally, the medication has been tested on two persons and has shown to be working positively. Why not have something ( the Zmapp drug) to hope on for survival than nothing at all? In as much I am not a health expert, talk less of being a health practitioner, but I am of the opinion that in addition to prevention, awareness, quarantining and contact tracing, the use of experimental drug helps in exterminating the virus. If the drug is not experimented, how do we know its positive workability? I think this is a way to go and I join hands with the WHO to overwhelmingly support the use of Zmapp or TMZ-Ebola with the consent of patients or family members.

The swift intervention of the President of Liberia to request for the drug, and the acceptance of the President of the United States of America and FDA are all commendable. The United States support in this regard and other directions that center on fighting this disease shows its unflinching interest in eradicating this epidemic from Liberia. The Chinese government should also be commended for its support through the supply of equipment and drugs to Liberia, and the West African Region affected by the virus. This donation shows the Chinese people deep interest in seeing an Ebola free Liberia and West African Region.

TOEFL  AND IELTS EXEMPTION 


John is always seen on the internet. Surprisingly, as youthful as he is , he is usually not on Facebook, or other social media.  His friend questioned him  ” why are you usually on the websites of foreign schools ?”. He replied ” I want to do my masters in a foreign land”. “Oh! You have an undergraduate degree”? His friend asked in a highly enquiring manner. He answered ” yes, I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and will like to do my masters in the same field with focus on volunteerism.” Wow! That is great”, his friend intoned.John was intermittently conversing and turning back and forth to his computer while he conversed and browsed. John informed his friend further that he had a problem with many of the foreign schools he had researched. His friends was curious to know what the problem was. He asked rushingly ” what problem do you have with those universities”? John responded and said I will tell you later. Please allow me to get through researching this other school.

I sat quietly in the corner anxiously waiting for John’s response to his friend’s question. After he got through researching, he turn around and said “I am ready to answer your question and register my dissatisfaction with many of these international schools”. He continued ” why don’t these schools exempt students that study in Liberia from sitting the TOEFL or IELTS? These standardized tests are meant for non- native  English language speakers. Liberia is an English speaking country wherein the only means of instruction in schools is English. All of our professional work is done in English.Why are we not exempted from these exams?” His friend averred “you are very right, John”. He (John’s friend) further avowed that he had semilar hitch-up with one of his applications to a foreign school. 

I sat in my little corner and began to analyze the statements from the guys. I asked myself whether Liberia is an English speaking country? I answered my question in the affirmative that Liberia is indeed an English speaking country. The next question was why Liberia is not being exempted from these exams ? Is it that the Ministry of Education via its Commission on Higher Learning is not doing enough to collaborate with schools and governments abroad to have Liberia exempted from these exams? Or are our English not too good? These were questions flowing through my mind. 

From a holistic view point, Liberia speaks English and every professional activity including formal education is done in English. This speaks strongly to level at which the English language is spoken and written in Liberia. This calls for international bodies or institutions and schools responsible to require students to sit such exam, keep in mind that Liberia should be given some exemption. The Liberian Ministry of Education needs to intervene in informing schools around the world that Liberia is an English speaking country and we should be treated as such.

CATER TO HEALTH WORKERS


I was on my way to a program but had to pass through a community in order to get to the venue of the event. As I passed through the community, I heard some voices of people that sounded like they were crying. As I got a little closer, it became glaring that the voices I heard from a far were  voices of cries. Even though the message was not very clear, but I managed to understand  the cries of the lady that  lay prostrated to the ground. She cried ” why did you leave us……we did not see you in your illness……I did not even see your corps to say goodbye….your grave will not be identified”. When I enquired as to the reasons of the sorrow, I was apprised that the lady at the point of affliction had just lost her two children to the fatal Ebola Disease. They were nurses working at health centers in one of the epic centers of the disease. I did not get to know the medium of  their infection. But one will surmise that they were infected via their various places of work or by one of them giving care to the other (infected) at home. As I stood far from the happenings, I saw grief, anguish, and sadness in the bereaved mother’s eyes and in the faces of family members and sympathizers. This immediately rolled down tears from my eyes. My tears came down so profusely that I had  to reach for my handkerchief to wipe the tears.

As I left the scene and continued walking to the program, I began to contemplate  on the  heroic and passionate efforts of  the many health workers that are late and also those that continue to save lives. At this point in Liberia’s history, health workers have become like soldiers fighting on the frontline. In this case, they are fighting against enemies that are invisible and attack in mysterious ways. Their front-lines are  the hospitals, clinics, and health care centers. As I furthered my steps, I almost hit a man unconsciously due to the thoughts that were running through my head and the sad experience I had just had.

Consequently, a conscious and caring individual will ask about the government and other institutions contributions or efforts towards health workers. Are they being given protective gears, good compensation and life insurance as they help to save lives in the wake of the Ebola Disease? If the answer is in the negative, that I know it is, how do we expect health workers to continue the fight against this disease. I will not like to compare Liberia with other affected countries but Nigeria has just confirmed seven cases and they are discussing on improving health workers’ compensation and life insurance. Additionally, The Nigerian Government has allocated an initial amount of 11 Million United States Dollars to curbing the disease. I commend Liberia’s late efforts to fighting this disease. The government has allocated 5 Million United States Dollars and other measures including training health workers, quarantining areas highly affected by the virus, to fighting the disease. Like many pundits have asserted, if these interventions had been made by the confirmation of the virus in Guinea, more than 200 persons could not have been victims to the epidemic. But the late efforts are still acceptable to avoiding further infections and deaths. Additionally, the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO) to raise funds for the West African Region , the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to send 50 health experts to the region, the intervention of Samaritan Purse and Medicin San Frontier (MSF) and other international partners are all commendable in the fight against this epidemic. 

The issue of Ebola has become a global emergency and the aid of everyone around the world is highly needed.  Let us spread the message of prevention and aid and pray for those in isolation and treatment centers. Please, do not forget to remember the hero and heroines (health practitioners) that have lost their lives and continue to save lives. I hope the United States  can approve the use of the experimental drug to further enhance the efforts of Tekmia as advances have been made to producing an Ebola drug (TMK-Ebola). I pray that Ebola will be KICKED OUT  in the matter of days.

Ebola is Real and Fatal


I was in a gathering that was supposed to be intellectually charged but heard a contrary statement from a so-called  educated individual and  also very prominent. He asserted “That disease does not exist”. His claim was in doubt or denial that the lethal Ebola Disease does not exist. Upon hearing this statement, I immediately shook my head in opposite directions (from left to right) in total disbelief to his assertion.  I quietly said to myself “is he serous?”. Why will he say such thing?

The first step to preventing or curing any disease is the acceptance that it exists. This is same with this deadly Ebola Disease that has full our hands. When you read the newspaper (local and international), browse the websites of Samaritan Purse, Medicin San Frontier, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), tune on the radio and television (local and international), you get information appraising that the disease truly exists especially in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and now Nigeria. So what is triggering the doubt especially among educated people? I would understand if an uneducated person will live in disbelief but not an educated one. This is not about opinions anymore but facts that the disease is here.

In Liberia,  many cherish the politicization of almost everything. This has extended to the point that once you are capable of expressing yourself to a smaller or larger public, you automatically consider yourself a politician which in most instances triggers the politicization. The issue of this disease is being politicized with claims that it is just a makeup by the government to acquire some money. Why should we advance such ugly thought that will do us nothing in uprooting a disease that is killing people by the day? With the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) to generate funds for the affected countries, there will be a lot of hubbub here as regards the proper use of the funds. As the educated ones, you are to inform others who do not comprehend issues surrounding the disease. You are a torch-bearer and a leader and as such, the definition of your role should be actualized.

Furthermore, let me emphasize that the Ebola Disease is real and it is killing people by the day. It has a 60 to 90% mortality rate with no cure but can be prevented. Some of the symptoms are red eyes, rash, sore throat, stomach pain, high fever, diarrhea and vomiting, headache, and bleeding from every opening on the body. The disease can be prevented by staying away from people who show the above listed symptoms or use protective clothing when caring for ill persons, stay away from dead bodies, wash your hands with soap and chlorinated water very often, avoid eating bush meat, bats and fruits bitten by bats. These were the pieces of information my colleague, Abigail Hanky, and I shared during our awareness campaign in the Lakpazee Community. It was voluntarily done with the backing of the Lakpazee Community Church.

Additionally, this disease has glaringly exposed further the weak health system we have.  All health centers around Liberia need the specially made protective clothing and disinfectants to prevent themselves and aid them in eradicating this disease. Care givers, especially the health workers are likely to contracting the disease because they are usually the first point of contact with ill people. Consequently, they should be given all the necessary tools to protect themselves. Kudos to the health practitioners, especially the nurse aids, nurses, physician assistants, laboratory technicians and doctors who are doing all they can within their means to ensure that this disease is kicked out. You are our heroes and heroines. You have shown the true meaning of your callings.

A State of Emergency has been declared by the President of Liberia. An initial amount of 5 Million United States Dollars has been allocated to the fight against the disease. Additional measures including the quarantining of infected communities and borders, training of health workers, and the establishment of a call center have been instituted. Even though we expected these stringent measures when the existence of the virus was first announced in Guinea, but these are good measures to curbing this virus. An earlier attack on the virus could not have resulted to the negative situation we now have on our hands. Additionally, we should take further steps to enquiring from the United States Government as to the use of the experimental drug that was used on the two Americans that were flown from Liberia to the US. Nigeria has asked the US Government to use the drug.

All religious, social, traditional and political institutions should rise up and sensitize members on the prevention and effects of this fatal disease. Members of these institutions believe in their leaders. If these leaders should inform their members about the existence of the disease and means of preventing it, I am of the conviction that we will be riding on the right path to exterminating the illness. Least we forget that the government has the major responsibility to finding sufficient funds, expertise, equipment or tools to fighting this sickness and it must do just that.

I extend my deepest condolences to the families of all those that have lost their lives to this disease.  To stop the next Ebola related death, we must accept that Ebola is real and disseminate the information in our communities and various places of worship and work.