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Covering Costs for African Health Care Workers

In this interview, Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist explains barriers to receiving on-the-ground help in West Africa from health care workers from other African countries.

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Q: So how should African countries contribute to fighting the Ebola outbreak?

A: To give you one example, there are 600 Nigerian health care workers who want to go to Liberia. But the process of getting them there has been going on for months. If the African team, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, and the West African Health Organisation all get their acts together, there are more than enough people in Africa—health care workers from Gabon, DRC, Uganda, Sudan—who have experience with this.

But we must find the funds to provide insurance for all national and international health workers who are currently working or have volunteered to work in the Ebola-affected areas of Africa. Bear in mind, in Africa we do not have a welfare system. I am the welfare system for my family, my brothers, my uncle. So when I go to an Ebola region, I am thinking of the 23 other people that depend on me. If there is no insurance, I will stay home.

Health care workers from other areas of Africa assisting in the ebola-stricken countries seems intuitive:

1)    As he states, they may have prior experience with ebola.
2)    In any case, they will certainly gain experience that might prove invaluable later on should other outbreaks occur in their own countries.
3)    They may have unique perspectives on cultural sensitivity in delivering care.

How can we better foster this? Are there ways that countries, companies, or individuals could sponsor African health care workers? How do expenses compare for supporting African health care workers with insurance, salary reimbursements, travel expenses, etc. versus those costs of sending in health care workers from Europe, the Americas, and Asia? How do citizens of West Africa feel about receiving care from African health care workers versus non-African health care workers?  Is it possible we might be more successful in recruiting non-African health care volunteers for this crisis if they were able to instead serve as substitutes in other parts of Africa for those African health care workers who want to help with ebola victims?


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