Following the success story recorded in the containment of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country, a 250-health care worker contingent will Thursday (today) depart Nigeria for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea under the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa mission. The team comprises medical doctors, nurses, hygienists and survivors of the EVD. The survivors are believed to be immune to the Zaire strain of the virus, a status achieved only after an individual has recovered from the illness.
But the survivors with a natural immunity to the Zaire variant are only a handful of the volunteers. According to a Consultant, Foetal Medicine and Genetics, Dr. Femi Oloyede, while the mission is laudable, the conditions in the Ebola-endemic countries will be different. Noting that the HCWs face a unique risk, he urges the African Union and the Federal Government to insure the HCWs against death and infections.
“They are now going into the battle field proper. It is like going into a lion’s den. I believe they must have been adequately trained. But beyond that, they need to be covered, insurance -wise, no matter the training. The risk of contracting the virus is higher now so, insurance should be paramount. “It is now a different ball game entirely because they are going into areas where the risk of being infected is extremely high. Aside from specific and general safety practices, it is necessary that they get a life insurance cover,” he says.
The Vice-President of the Commonwealth Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, shares a similar view. In a statement on Monday, Enabulele, the immediate past president of the Nigerian Medical Association, canvassed a life insurance policy as well as a quick re-integration of all volunteers upon their return from the affected countries.
“While we commend these efforts, we however wish to urge that all the necessary conditions (including pre-departure conditions) that will motivate and empower the volunteers should be provided. In particular, we urge the provision of a guaranteed Life Insurance Policy before their departure. We also urge the provision of an adequate welfare package, Personal Protective Equipment and other support medical facilities.’’
An email sent to the African Union Commission through its Deputy Director, Head of Communications and Information, at the African Union Commission, Wynne Musabayana, on Tuesday, requesting to know what life insurance policy was in place for the HCWs and where any health worker who gets infected would be evacuated to for treatment had yet to be responded to as of Wednesday night.
However, information obtained from the website of the International Institute for Security Studies revealed that the first batch of health care volunteers from Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo left for Liberia in September. The mission, it was learnt, was made possible by a coalition of African philanthropists and international agencies.