Ebola-hit Liberia rebuilds devastated child healthcare system
Estella Verdier keeps vigil by her sick four-month-old grandson’s hospital bed, praying for his recovery but placing her faith in the earthly healing powers of Liberia’s first ever children’s hospital.
The 46-bed unit, just opened in Monrovia by Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), is part of the country’s response to the challenge of repairing its wrecked health service as it emerges from the nightmare of Ebola.
Like countless young women in impoverished Liberia, Verdier’s daughter died in childbirth, leaving the 63-year-old the infant’s main guardian.
“Since then he continues to get sick. Anything he eats, he vomits it. No need to ask me how I feel — I am feeling bad, of course — but with this well-equipped hospital I have hope that the kid will survive,” Verdier tells AFP.
Liberia is one of three countries, together with Guinea and Sierra Leone, that were ravaged by the worst outbreak of Ebola in history.
The epidemic has killed at least 10,600 people since December 2013, some 500 of them healthcare workers.
Clinics which could not cope with the highly infectious virus were forced to close as the death toll rose, and with it the number of Liberians dying from easily treatable diseases.
“We saw people dying simply because they could not access timely medical care. They were usually suffering from illnesses like severe malaria or typhoid,” said Philippe Le Vaillant, MSF’s head of mission in Liberia.
“Pregnant women facing obstetrical complications also have suffered the same fate.”