Zainab Tunkara Clarkson
11 August 2014
It does us no good constantly recounting our problems without proffering solutions, as this only demoralise and depresses us even more.
However, it is highly beneficial to take a look at our problems on a case by case basis, to come up with suggestions as to how to overcome them for the common good.
At the moment, we are faced with the ebola virus, which started as a small malady, but has now spread like wildfire and is threatening us all with devastating consequences.
Not only is it spreading with epidemic-like speed, but it is now so endemic that health workers trying to stem the tide are now themselves at very serious risk.
Over recent weeks, there has been an increase in the death rate of medical practitioners, from treating patients infected by the ebola. Being in the frontline of the battle against the virus, they are not only exposed to its venom, but also face glaring hostility from those who see the disease as a conspiracy by health workers trying to kill them.
Many uneducated victims see the ebola virus as something mysterious, and believe that health workers can infect them with it.
As a result of this, numerous professionals working diligently to eliminate the virus across Sierra Leone, have not only received threats but have been physically attacked too.
Over the years, Sierra Leone’s human capital has been seriously depleted, especially within the health sector, as thousands of professionals rather go abroad where terms and conditions are better than what prevail back home. (Connaught Hospital – Freetown).
This unsustainable exodus of our health professionals is partly to blame for our vulnerability to viruses like ebola, as the necessary manpower to ensure there are enough preventative measures in place is lacking.
Not restricted to Sierra Leone, this brain drain has affected many poor countries significantly, as rich nations tempt their workers away.
This massive migration of our health professionals is ultimately leading to the deaths of millions across the developing world, as well as compounded poverty.
Those Sierra Leonean health workers that are here at home, working tirelessly and trying to cope with excessive workloads, poor pay and poor working conditions, now facing the threat of being infected by the ebola virus, is making their job more cumbersome than ever.
Having a healthcare policy that prepares for eventualities, focuses on prevention, ensures we have sufficient manpower to deal with any crisis, and remunerates our professionals so they are not easily lured abroad, is a must.
We should not consider providing internationally competitive remunerative packages to our health workers as a luxury, but as a basic necessity.
Likewise, education programmes should be put in place, not only to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as ebola, but to also inform our people of how such diseases are contracted and spread.
This should in the long run, dispel the notion that such virus is mythical and a conspiracy. Fingers crossed, we will get over this problem soon, and life will once again return to normal.
But as a people, we have to learn the bitter lessons from this ebola outbreak. Never again should we be caught off-guard. We need to imbibe the World Health Organisation’s maxim: ‘Prevention is better than cure.’