Ebola exposes Liberia's health problems

2014-10-05 19:58
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Monrovia - The spreading of the Ebola virus from Africa to the US has exposed the multiple problems in Liberia, where an overloaded healthcare system, poverty and an unresponsive government have deepened the crisis.

Thomas Eric Duncan was hospitalised in Dallas, Texas on 28 September, becoming the first case to be registered outside Africa.

He caught the deadly fever from Marthalyn Williams, the daughter of his landlord in Paynesville, a suburb of the Liberian capital Monrovia, shortly before he caught a flight to the United States.

Williams, who was pregnant, later died. She infected four people who have also succumbed to the virus as well as her parents, who are being treated in an Ebola centre, according to Liberian authorities.

Travel together

Such stories have become disturbingly common in Liberia, the worst hit of the West African nations at the centre of the epidemic, which has already killed 3 439 people, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation.

Of these, 2 069 died in Liberia, where entire families have been wiped out as they try to help each other.

Doctors Without Borders, which is spearheading efforts to contain the disease, say as many as two-thirds of infected Liberians will never reach a treatment centre.

A major shortage of ambulances, combined with endemic poverty, also mean families often have no choice but to travel together in taxis.

The virus can survive for hours after they leave the car.

The "Ebola Task Force" in Paynesville has tried to locate everyone that came into contact with Williams.

"We have found five people," said one of the team, Peter Blidi. They have been placed under observation for 21 days, the maximum incubation period for the virus.

Reaction time

Blidi criticised the inertia of Liberian officials: "At the beginning, we signalled these cases to the government who were deaf to our appeals. They have been asleep in the face of this epidemic, so we are working at the community level."

It is a feeling shared by Laurence Sailly, head of the MSF centre at Paynesville, who criticised the reaction time of ambulances and said the government had failed on even "basic logistics".

"The system doesn't work," she said.

Patient distribution was a particular problem, she added. While most centres are overwhelmed, the MSF centre has dozens of spare beds.

On Saturday, the Texan hospital where he is being treated since 28 September said he was "in critical condition", without giving further details.

Liberia, too, is in critical condition - a situation not helped by news on Saturday that two clinics were being closed in Bomi province, northwest of the capital, after two staff members died from Ebola.

Read more on:    who  |  msf  |  us  |  liberia  |  ebola  |  health  |  west africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.