WHO eyes Filipino health workers to help Ebola-stricken West African countries

Article courtesy of Jet Villa, InterAksyon.com

Nurses treat a patient with Ebola hemorrhagic fever in this AFP file photo.

Nurses treat a patient with Ebola hemorrhagic fever in this AFP file photo.

MANILA – Saying the continuing spread of the deadly Ebola disease will require more trained health workers to stamp it out within the next criticial months, World Health Organization (WHO)  officials have asked the Philippines to send health professionals to help control the outbreak.

The deaths from Ebola cases in West Africa breached 3,000 before the weekend.

On Friday, WHO Country Representative Dr. Julie Hall said West Africa needs a “very large [number of workers] to stop the transmission of the Ebola virus.”  As of Sept. 26, a total of  6,553 people have been infected, of whom 3,083 have died.

The outbreak has been projected to continue within the next nine months at least, Hall told a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) and Philippine Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) on Friday.

“The situation in western Africa is quite critical. As you will see, the numbers are rising in the cases of Ebola.  The only way to control the outbreak is to have sufficient [numbers of] health workers,” she said.

Having enough health workers on the ground could encourage infected individuals to step forward for treatment, thus, expediting the crucial work of contact tracing by authorities, she explained.

“The chain of transmission will be stopped. So if someone has Ebola, we know exactly who they might pass it on to and those people will be brought early for treatment and transmission will be stopped,” Hall said.

It is estimated that 500 to 1,000 health workers are still needed in West Africa.

In many instances, health workers were overwhelmed by the sheer challenge of the outbreak, with reports of nurses and nursing assistants threatening to go on strike because of insufficient protective gear against infections; and of health workers being attacked by angry crowds as they try to bring to hospital the infected villagers.

“If the Philippines were able to send volunteers, that is extremely welcome. It’s very welcome because of the language, because of the skills and also because of the overwhelming response to the Haiyan from the international community, both in terms of coming here and the volumes of money that came through it from the NGOs,” Hall said.

“That’s also because so many people around the world are being cared for by Filipino nurses. The kindness of Filipino nurses around the world is very well recognized and the world wanted to support the Philippines when you had a crisis and if the Philippines is able to support, as I’m sure that it is already doing in terms of Filipios working in WHO, working in NGOs, ….. the support will be extremely welcome,” Hall said.

The skill, compassion and ability of Filipino nurses to cope with crisis situations was highlighted in recent months with the breakdown of law and order in Libya, where Philippine government teams sought to repatriate 12,000 OFWs, mostly in the health and construction sectors.

Many of the health professionals had stayed on even during the chaos following the death of strongman Muamar Khadafy, as employers promised to provide better terms to compensate for their risks. However, the Department of Foreign Affairs this time around imposed mandatory evacuation after various armed groups sowed mayhem in three cities hosting large numbers of Filipinos – Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata.

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