Ebola puts expectant mothers at risk; Melinda Gates, Barbara Bush urge action

Health activists, football players unite to fight Ebola

By Moushumi Sharma
Published: Tuesday 18 November 2014

Strong health system is critical to fight the spread of Ebola, which has killed more than 5,000 people and infected at least 14,000

The Ebola outbreak has taken a toll on women’s health in Africa which needs to be addressed urgently. This was observed by two global health advocates—philanthropist Melinda Gates, wife of billionaire Bill Gates, and Barbara Bush, daughter of former US president George W Bush. They spoke on a variety of issues, ranging from women’s education to contraception, at a women’s health event called “Better by Half”, recently held in New York, reports Newsweek.

They expressed concern about the state of women’s health in countries whose health systems have been shaken up by the overwhelming number of Ebola cases, such as those in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. “There are 770,000 women who will give birth in the three affected countries this year. The maternal death rate is going to go up because women don’t want to go to clinics as they are afraid. We need to address that problem,” the magazine quotes Gates.

Bush, co-founder and chief executive officer of the international healthcare non-profit Global Health Corps (GHC), admitted that despite the outbreak’s beginning in March this year, there was a delay “in terms of Americans getting interested”.

The young entrepreneur highlighted an important truth. “We are living in such a globally connected world that what happens in Liberia, what happens in Sierra Leone impacts the entire world. We have to care about what is happening in West Africa because it affects what’s happening in the rest of the world,” she said.

Global health corps

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ebola has killed 5,177 people and infected 14,413 in eight countries. Bush added that improving health systems is critical to fighting Ebola. This is one of the key components of GHC, which she co-founded in 2009. “Global health is not just about having enough trained doctors and nurses. It is also about having strong supply chains for medicine and good education resources,” she said.

GHC works domestically in Newark, New York, Boston and Washington DC. It has centres in Africa too. Bush underlined that many lessons can be learnt from the African countries GHC works in, including the practice of having trained community health workers to visit homes and discuss healthcare needs and medication.

‘11 against Ebola’

Besides health activists raising awareness about Ebola, sports has also emerged as a powerful medium. In a new campaign, “11 Against Ebola”, players from Europe’s biggest football clubs, including Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona’s Neymar Jr, Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Bayern Munich’s Phillip Lahm, have come together to promote preventive measures against the deadly disease, states a press release  of the World Bank. The financial institution is mobilising $1 billion to finance the countries hardest hit by Ebola. This includes more than $500 million for emergency response.

Using the slogan “Together, we can beat Ebola” and the hashtag #wecanbeatebola, the players share 11 health messages with the help of doctors and health experts from Africa, the World Bank Group and WHO. Each message is supplemented by animated films, radio content, banners, posters and photographs of the players. “It is important that we get the right information to those affected by the Ebola outbreak. We all hope this positive campaign will improve people’s understanding of the Ebola virus and help us to reduce the chances of it spreading. Together, we can beat Ebola,” the press release quotes Neymar Jr.

Research: A three-scale network model for the early growth dynamics of 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic

Research: Conservancy of mAb Epitopes in Ebolavirus Glycoproteins of previous and 2014 outbreaks

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