I have been lazy (read busy) to update my blog since we came from Nairobi for the predeployment training and subsequent deployment of extra 170 health workers to Liberia and Sierra Leone. From 3rd-10th January 2015, the AU ASEOWA Secretariat was overseeing this activity in closely monitored marriage with Ministry of Public Health-Kenya!
For some reasons, I wasn’t able to fly out with the team on the 3rd, but joined up on the 5th in time and on time for all the training and screening. I was totally amazed by the number of volunteers that showed up for this exercise! My former public health students will remember one of our lectures on the power of mobilising communities to run control of the situation’. Fired up and showing real commitment by providing the smallest details we could ask from them, these ladies and gentlemen should be appointed by the Pope as the Earthly Saints!
It was an action packed mission, from Monday to Saturday. I cant even say, I did any shopping from the New York of East Africa (Nairobi) except afew jeans I grabbed along Kenyatta Avenue. These Health Care workers will boost the already existing Ethiopian and Nigerian Volunteers in not just supporting the existing health network, but also re-starting the health structures. The good news from Liberia is that Schools are re-opening! Yesssssssss!!!!! But more needs to be done.
There is however one big problem:-the social determinants of health ofcourse broke down when the EVD was at its peak! Business, transport, agriculture came to a standstill in the affected areas: So how is the population going to survive? On Wednesday, I read an article on the internet that Malaria is killing more people than Ebola in the affected countries! Why would Malaria be killing than Ebola and yet more focus is on Ebola? Our public health officers who are part of the health care workers shouldn’t forget that public health is an art and a science with many faces. Psyschosocial support, mental health, menstrual hygiene management, economic empowerment are all but commonly neglected issues when responding to an epidemic. Once when I was working for the Uganda Red Cross, we were responding to Cholera Outbreak in Nakivaale Camp in Ibanda district, where I met some refugees from DRC, one of them spoke for the rest when he said ‘J’ai faim, comment je peut t’ecoute ce qui tu parles’ Literally meaning, from my average french ‘Iam hungry, how can I hear what you are saying?’ If you asked me, I ‘d say the 80-20 rule should apply with 80% under horizontal funding to support the social & economic effects of Ebola, the 20% vertical funding for biomedical services.
And as I learnt, behind every successful mission, there is a Sarah who was responsible for organising the venue, printing,ensuring everybody gets food, ensuring tickets are booked making sure everything is in place: needless to say, such people aint given the credit they deserve and my experience so far, has taught me that. When I become the Next WHO Director General, I will be saying a physical hello to all the organisers including porters!
Ps. The Road Safety Champions for Anglophone Africa will be announced this week: So keep your ears on the ground at www.youthsforroadsafety.org