Medical Teams International recently received the following essay from Andrew Hoskins, who is MTI’s country director for Liberia. Since the Ebola epidemic exploded over the summer, fast becoming the most urgent international health risk since AIDS, medical volunteers and staff in Liberia have been laboring to quell the spread of the disease. Work toward this end has been accomplished by implementing triage techniques and reopening health clinics.
The work continues.
Hoskins writes from the front lines of Ebola, in Liberia, where he and his family live. Please take the time to read his eye-opening account.
By Andrew Hoskins
When I arrived in Liberia, I had no idea of the coming disaster, which would overshadow every aspect of life in this small country. I came to Liberia to manage projects intended to build the capacity of Liberian nurses and doctors, to empower rural hospitals and clinics to provide better health care, and to encourage communities to be involved in decisions that affect their own health.
Work continues in Liberia to keep health clinics open in the face of the ongoing Ebola threat.
This is still the work of Medical Teams International in Liberia, but everything has taken on new meaning now.
I have been reluctant to share about my work in Liberia because there is so much fear in the general public. With new infections in America, Ebola is on everyone’s minds. Even as I am writing this, the regulations are changing regarding travelers returning to the U.S.A.
It is not easy to have such uncertainty about what will happen when we return to the states. Yet while infections in Texas and New York are tragic, remember that this is a West African epidemic. America is incomparable to the situation in Liberia. No country could have been prepared for an outbreak like this, but the health system in Liberia was particularly poor. I have seen clinics run out of basic supplies like gloves. Compare that with the huge task of preparing clinics with the amount of Personal Protective Equipment that is recommended in Liberia for even a non-suspected patient, not to mention the training on how to use the new supplies.
The numbers (4603 cases in our city of Monrovia alone) aren’t real until you put a face to a number.
Michael Blama has worked for Medical Teams for years as a medical supply distributor. He is a nurse, so his family looks to him as a source of knowledge. One day upon arriving home, he found his niece had come to his house from a different area of town because she was unwell. Because of Michael’s training through Medical Teams International on Ebola, he immediately took precautions.
He arranged the transport of his niece to a health facility and the test results came back positive for Ebola. She died the next day and Michael and his entire family were quarantined. At the end of the 21 day period, not a single member of Michael’s family contracted the disease.
The story is a sad one, but there is hope. The disease is stoppable.
The heroes are the local health workers who live here and give their time, day in and day out, to serve their communities.
Florence Rogers is Liberian nurse who works as a clinical supervisor for Medical Teams. Her family is in Monrovia but she is working for us in Sinoe County, a full day’s drive on bad roads from her home. Since the start of the outbreak, Florence has put in long hours sometimes going out into the field starting at 4 a.m. and often sleeping in the communities that are far from the road in order to train and equip community health volunteers on Ebola awareness. She often works seven days a week and rarely gets a chance to come in and see her family in Monrovia. She cares deeply about the communities she serves.
For me, she is a hero.
Because of supplies that were shipped in and donated from all around the world, Medical Teams International was able to reopen many clinics. These clinics had closed during the Ebola outbreak because health workers were afraid of infection. Many of their fears had to do with not having adequate supplies or equipment to protect themselves.
As one example, MTI visited the Goodwill Clinic on the GSA road in Monrovia shortly after it had closed down. After training, coaching and setting up follow-up visits, Medical Teams donated a two-month supply of gloves, chlorine for disinfection, face masks, aprons, rubber boots, and other items. With these supplies, the health workers gained confidence and reopened the clinic. Now, the community around the GSA road outside of Monrovia have access to health care. They now have a place where they can bring their children if they are sick or where their mothers can deliver babies.
This is my first experience living in what the United Nations has defined as a “full scale humanitarian disaster.” But one thing I’ve learned is that life must go on for all who live right in the middle of it all. For us that means homeschooling our girls since the schools are temporarily shut down. We are building a Swiss-Family-Robinson-style treehouse system in our back yard which gives us something other than Ebola to think about. We still go to the market and to the grocery store.
I know that God is still in control, even in the midst of disasters. Others may question it, but He has given us a peace about being here. Thank you for your prayers and support.
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