Health Workers on the Frontlines of Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
"Most of the dedicated health workers are really doing a commendable job, dedicating their lives to working in very difficult conditions and caring for persons that have come down with Ebola. What we need to do is commend them for their bravery and their commitment for caring for the patients.” – Francis Kasalo, Coordinator of the WHO’s regional coordination center for Ebola in Conakry, Guinea. Source: Devex, July 30, 2014
The Frontline Health Workers Coalition commends the ongoing efforts of thousands of health workers on the frontlines of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone for their remarkable courage and resilience. Despite working in conditions of severe workforce shortages, inadequate facilities and major personal risk, these health workers are providing the necessary care that will save lives and help to end the outbreak.
The Coalition calls for the safety and support of frontline health workers to be of paramount importance during the response to the outbreak.
According to the Global health Workforce Alliance, World Health Organization International Health Regulations (IHR) emphasize the need for in-country “specialized staff” to provide consistent monitoring and prompt responses for health epidemics. Several recent actions, including the 2014 release of the United States government-led Global Health Security agenda, are focused on improving disease surveillance and responses.
However, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are among 83 countries worldwide that the WHO in 2013 reported to have below the minimum ratio of doctors, nurses and midwives (22.8 per 10,000 population) needed to provide basic health services to a population, and severe inequities in workforce distribution also exist within these countries. As James Campbell, Director of Health Workforce at WHO and Executive Director of the Global Health Workforce Alliance recently stated, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa highlights the “critical need for investment in health workers and health systems” worldwide.
Far greater global focus and investment on health workforce strengthening, especially on the frontlines of care, is crucial to responding to disease epidemics and to providing the essential care that can save millions of lives every year. Developing country governments and donors must work together to ensure that frontline health workers in West Africa and around the world have the support, tools and knowledge necessary to do their work.