How Liberia’s frontline health workers are protecting us all
Donors acknowledge the necessity of that long-term shift. A spokesperson for the Global Fund said it focuses on supporting countries in “moving away from donor financing toward domestically funded health systems” as they grow economically.
Studies show that the cost of the damage done by major outbreaks far outweigh the investment required to prevent them. The West African Ebola epidemic cost the region $6bn (£4.6bn), and the world $15bn (£11.4bn). Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to cost the global economy at least $12.5 trillion (£9.6 trillion) by 2024.
The hope is that, in Liberia at least, the humble community health worker could play a key role in nipping the next emerging infectious disease in the bud. Meanwhile these workers on the health frontline keep their eyes open for anything out of the ordinary.
Under the baking afternoon sun, in Liberia’s Wulu Town, Konobo, community health worker Emmanuel Poler examines a four-month-old whose mother has brought to him with swollen feet, a persistent fever, and, she says, “white eyes”.
Wearing blue rubber gloves, Poler, 45, takes a pin prick of blood from the child to test for malaria, which comes out positive. Due to the severity of the symptoms, Poler refers the child to the health facility.
“They know the signs and symptoms themselves,” says Poler, writing down the results in his large black notebook. “Now they come to me [for treatment]. They know that their health is in their hands. It’s in all of our hands.”
Reporting for this article was funded by the European Journalism Centre, through the Global Health Security Call, a programme supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.