Chinese medical supplies to fight Ebola in W. Africa

By Evelyn T. Kpadeh, Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Supplies include personal protective equipment, hospital curtains, sanitizers, disinfectants and patient-monitoring equipment

Supplies include personal protective equipment, hospital curtains, sanitizers, disinfectants and patient-monitoring equipment

MONROVIA – Liberia has received a consignment of medical supplies and personal protective equipment from China to help the West African country fight the deadly Ebola virus.

"On behalf of the Liberian people and government, we are grateful for your contribution to our nation in this fight against Ebola that has and continues to kill our people," Liberian Foreign Ministry official Sylvester Brisbane told Chinese Ambassador Zhou Yuxiao.

Ambassador Zhou said that China remains a longstanding partner of Africa, and felt duty-bound as such to support Africans in surmounting the challenges they face.

The consignment, which arrived late Monday and is valued at over $5 million, has been earmarked for the three worst-hit countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – with the latter receiving $ 1.7 million worth of medical supplies.

Supplies include, among other things, personal protective equipment, hospital curtains, sanitizers, disinfectants and patient-monitoring equipment.

Ebola, a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure, has claimed hundreds of lives in the three affected countries.

Liberia alone has reported 294 suspected and confirmed fatalities from Ebola as of August 8, with several fresh cases of suspected Ebola being reported daily.

The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals.

It also reportedly spreads through contact with the body fluids of infected persons or of those who have died of the disease.

The arrival of the Chinese consignment came just two days after Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf concluded talks with health workers, with the latter vowing to resume work at the nation's hospitals.

All the major government and private hospitals had closed down after several fatalities among medical staff had created panic among health workers.

Since the country's second outbreak of Ebola in June, some 35 health workers, including doctors, have died after treating infected patients.

According to Information Minister Lewis Brown, hospitals were expected to re-open on Monday, but visits to major referrer hospitals – including the External Love Winning Africa (ELWA) and the John F. Kennedy hospitals – suggested otherwise.

Hospital officials had warned that the resumption of work without adequate protective gear could put more health workers at risk.

News of the Chinese medical consignment was welcomed by Liberians in the heath sector.

Although the consignment in and of itself is not a cure for Ebola, the availability of fresh supplies will gradually allow health workers to return to their hospitals and clinics.

The Liberian police, meanwhile, especially immigration officers, also stand to benefit.

Police Chief Chris Massaquoi has called on the Health Ministry to provide burial teams and officers stationed at hospitals with protective supplies.

Security forces were deployed at major hospitals after angry citizens threatened to burn down health facilities following the death of Ebola-infected relatives.

Immigration officers deployed at the country's major entry points to help health teams examine travellers had also complained of supply shortages.

President Sirleaf has declared a 90-day state of emergency throughout the country due to the virus outbreak.

She has already ordered the closure of schools nationwide, along with other measures aimed at containing the epidemic.

She also ordered all non-essential government personnel to be placed on 30-day compulsory leave.

The Liberian leader further called for the closure of all markets along the border with Sierra Leone and Guinea until further notice.

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency