Stories from Quick Reads and Health
Guinea medical personnel are fearful following the death of 28 of their number and the hospitalization of 50 additional staff since September 17. Compounding this situation, the lack of protective equipment is so serious that medical gloves are being sold on the black market. Highlighting the atmosphere among care personnel, Amadou Tham Camara wrote the following on Guinea News:
Déjà traumatisé par la mort de six collègues au mois d’avril dernier, le personnel soignant de l’hôpital sino guinéen de Kipé est dorénavant dans une sinécure paranoïaque : les médecins refusent de soigner. Et tous les jours, ils maudissent le17 mars, ce jour où ils ont reçu ce patient venu de Dabola qui a contaminé neuf de leurs collègues.
Dans les autres grands hôpitaux nationaux de Conakry, des services entiers ne sont plus ouverts à cause des nouveaux cas d’Ebola détectés. Ainsi, depuis deux semaines, le service de réanimation de l’hôpital Ignace Deen est fermé. Le service gynécologique du même hôpital est barricadé pour les mêmes raisons. De même la maternité de l’hôpital Donka, la plus grande du pays, ne fonctionne plus.
Dans ce pandémonium, le paludisme qui reste le premier problème de santé publique en Guinée, avec plus de 30% des consultations, et la première cause de décès en milieu hospitalier(14%), selon l’OMS, a encore de beaux jours pour améliorer ses chiffres macabres. Tout ceci, à cause du silence feutré provoqué par le tintamarre assourdissant autour d’Ebola.
Entire departments are closed in the other national hospitals of Conakry due to new cases of Ebola being detected. The intensive care unit of Ignace Deen has been closed for two weeks and the gynecology department of this hospital is currently barricaded. The Donka maternity hospital, the largest in the country, is no longer in service.
Malaria remains Guinea's major public health problem being responsible for over 30% of consultations and the primary cause of death in hospitals according to the WHO. All this pandemonium ensures these macabre statistics have had ample opportunity to worsen. A deadening silence caused by the deafening panic about Ebola.
Global Editors Network intends to develop new technologies and social networks for covering and preventing the Ebola epidemic from spreading.
Watch the YouTube video below for more information about the project:
United Methodist Communications, Chocolate Moose Media and iheed have collaborated to produce an animated video for use in West Africa that helps dispel myths about how Ebola is spread and promotes prevention of the disease. United Methodist Communications provided partial funding for Chocolate Moose Media to create the video, which will be produced in various languages, including English and French with West African voices and other West African languages. This is an international co-production, involving production in ten countries: Canada, Guinea, India, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sierra Leone Switzerland and the United States.
“When will Ebola news go 24/7?,” asks a US/Canadian professor Crawford Kilian:
I have long been used to outbreak news dropping off on weekends. The media, government agencies, and NGOs all knock off on Friday afternoon and show up again Monday morning.
But after the last few weeks of Ebola, I'm losing patience with the folks who make a living covering the outbreak. Yes, good for them and the collective agreements that give them eight-hour days, weekends off, extended holidays, and excellent health benefits.
But if Ebola is as unprecedented as Dr. Chan says it is, how about finding the money to pay those folks overtime so Ebola news carries on over the weekend (not to mention statutory holidays)? Can you imagine news about Pearl Harbor waiting until some reporter sauntered in on the morning of Monday, December 8, 1941? Or JFK's death going unreported until the following Monday, November 25, 1963?
But the West African media, with a few exceptions, go into hibernation on Friday afternoons and revive sometime the following Monday. So do WHO and the other major health agencies. I know very well that they've suffered budget cuts by governments that still think austerity is the road to recovery from the crash of 2008.
The Press Union of Liberia is concerned about the threat to freedom of information as a result of the actions taken by the government to limit the expansion of the Ebola virus. The union wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice to draw his attention to the challenges media workers are currently facing. Here is an excerpt of the letter:
The Press Union of Liberia’s attention is specifically drawn to several circumstances that do not only restrain journalists in their obligation to seek out and share useful news and information with the public, but significantly threaten even media participation in the global fight against Ebola. By all accounts, the media space in Liberia has been a significant partner in the fight to strengthen awareness in our society about the impact and challenges of the epidemic. Notwithstanding the loss of revenue due to the emergency nature of the epidemic and the effect on general life, the media has remained committed to this fight. Unfortunately, several actions against media by government actors, especially during these times, have simply given room to growing skepticism about the disease, and further exacerbating the denials within the community. We think this is unfair and improper.
Ebola Alert Twitter feed is the creation of evidence-driven group of volunteer professionals working on Ebola prevention interventions. The initiative involves active participation of professionals from different walks of life.
A social anthropologist and sociologist Ginny Moony explains how Ebola outbreak strips off Africans of their humanity:
The way West-Africans care for their sick and deceased, supposedly differs significantly from that of the rest of the world. This is far from true. All over the world, the essence of care for the sick is practically the same: the touching of sick and dead relatives is a natural phenomenon. All over the world the deceased are cleaned up and the body is neatly laid out so that family members and acquaintances can say farewell. In the Netherlands, we have the possibility to lay out our dead loved ones in our parlour for days. And physical contact with the body of the deceased will take place until the coffin is sealed and put into the ground or taken to the cremation ovens.
In the case of the Ebola affected countries, normal human behavior is dismissed as “old-fashioned and undesirable practices” by the World Health Organization and experts analyzing the Ebola outbreak. Nobody questions whether it is reasonable to deny people the care for their loved ones and the right to be in charge of the mourning process. The solution to prevent people from getting infected with Ebola is clear: no touching, under any circumstances. More empathic solutions, like the provision of protective gear to family members so they can bury their loved ones themselves or with guidance, are not being considered. The population is pushed into the corner; if they do not cooperate, they will go to jail. These harsh measures alienate the people from the authorities even further. Ebola is a punishment. Not for the international community, not for the politicians, not for the elite, but only for the poor masses. The people feel alone. Deserted. Huge amounts of money are coming in, more and more reinforcements arrive and still the epidemic wins more ground every day….
Without medical professionals fluent in indigenous languages or without proper interpretation services in Mexican hospitals, there is a risk that patients will not be able to adequately describe what ails them, writes Yásnaya Aguilar in her regular blog column for EstePaís. She provides examples how the Mixe language allows her to more accurately describe her pain to a nurse or doctor that can speak the same language, and how a translation into Spanish can still be somewhat limiting. She writes,
En mixe por ejemplo tengo un conjunto de palabras distinto para nombrar el dolor físico: pëjkp, jäjp, pä’mp, we’tsp… Apenas hallo equivalentes para alguna en español. Las diferencias todavía son más grandes y hay momentos en los que sólo puedo describir un dolor en español o sólo alcanzo a nombrarlo en mixe. Hablar ambas lenguas me permite tener a mi servicio un inventario más nutrido de palabras para describir mi dolor, aunque en general, cuando algo me duele mucho, el mixe toma el control de mis pensamientos.
For example, in mixe I have a group of distinct words available to me to describe physical pain: pëjkp, jäjp, pä’mp, we’tsp. I'm barely able to find the equivalent words for these words in Spanish. The differences are very large and there are times when I can only describe the pain in Spanish and there are other times when I can only describe the pain in Mixe. Being able to speak both languages allows me to have at my disposal a richer inventory of words to describe my pain, although generally, when something is causing me a lot of pain, the Mixe language takes control of my thoughts.
The universal right to health care cannot be guaranteed when the majority of hospitals have no medical practitioners that speak indigenous languages and because interpretation can only go so far since they do not have the same knowledge of the human body. And she adds that this could potentially cause misdiagnoses and without these language services, “there is no way to build bridges of empathy and to effectively understand that your ‘it hurts’ could also be the same as mine.”
The communities, characteristically living in the mountains or their fringes, have depended mostly on plants and other natural products from the forest to prevent or treat sickness. But environmental degradation and the onslaught of lowland mainstream cultures now threaten their healing traditions.