Gezondheid in een tijd van ebola

NEW YORK – In het ten zuiden van de Sahara gelegen deel van Afrika zou ieder kind met koorts onmiddellijke medische zorg moeten krijgen om de dood door malaria of longontsteking te voorkomen. Maar nu de paniek over de verspreiding van ebola Liberia – en Sierra Leone, Guinee en Nigeria – in zijn greep houdt, associëren de mensen ter plekke artsen en gezondheidszorgfaciliteiten steeds meer met de blootstelling aan de ziekte. Om ervoor te zorgen dat ze naar zorg blijven zoeken als ze daar behoefte aan hebben, zijn er verbeteringen nodig in frontlijnklinieken en investeringen in gezondheidszorgwerkers uit de lokale gemeenschap om de meest kwetsbaren thuis te kunnen bereiken.

De eerlijkheid gebiedt te zeggen dat de tekortkomingen van het Liberiaanse gezondheidszorgsysteem dateren van lang vóór de ebola-uitbraak. Ruwweg 28% van de vier miljoen inwoners van het land ontbeert de toegang tot adequate medische faciliteiten. Het Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement uit 2003 heeft een einde kunnen maken aan jaren van burgeroorlog, maar het land achtergelaten met slechts 51 artsen en een gedecimeerde infrastructuur.

Met heel weinig gekwalificeerde gezondheidszorgprofessionals vergt het repareren van het gezondheidszorgstelsel méér dan het bouwen van nieuwe ziekenhuizen en klinieken in het dichte regenwoud van Liberia. Gelukkig onderkent de regering, net als die van andere landen in het ten zuiden van de Sahara gelegen deel van Afrika, de noodzaak om te investeren in het opleiden van uit de lokale gemeenschap afkomstige gezondheidszorgwerkers in landelijke gebieden om diarree, longontsteking en malaria te kunnen behandelen – de drie belangrijkste doodsoorzaken bij kinderen beneden de vijf.

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