How Liberia’s frontline health workers are protecting us all

Donors recognize the need for this long-term shift. A Global Fund spokesman said his focus is on helping countries “shift from donor-funded to domestically-funded health systems” as they grow economically.

Studies show that the cost of damage caused by major outbreaks far exceeds the investment needed to prevent them. the Cost of the West African Ebola epidemic the region $6 billion (£4.6 billion); and the world $15 billion (£11.4 billion). Meanwhile the The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to cost at least US$12.5 trillion (£9.6 trillion) to the global economy 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. In the meantime, these workers on the health front are keeping their eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary.

Under the scorching afternoon sun, community health worker Emmanuel Poler, in Liberia’s city of Wulu, examines Konobo, a four-month-old boy whose mother was brought to him with swollen feet, a persistent fever and, as she says, “white eyes”.

Poler, 45, wears blue rubber gloves and takes a pinprick of blood from the child to test for malaria, which comes back positive. Due to the severity of the symptoms, Poler refers the child to the health facility.

“You know the signs and symptoms yourself,” says Poler, jotting down the results in his large black notebook. “Now they come to me [for treatment]. They know their health is in their hands. It’s in all of our hands.”

Reporting for this article has been funded by the European Journalism Center through the Global Health Security Call, a program supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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