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Kenyan medics defy fear to fight Ebola in the frontlines

09 January 2015, 08:16

Nairobi - Rhoda Kiilu has witnessed human suffering in her native village in lower eastern parts of Kenya for the last two decades since the mother of two joined the medical profession.

Kiilu is not only accustomed to contagious diseases that blight the rural poor but has as well developed a thick skin having witnessed people die in their prime from preventable causes.

The middle-aged nurse was elated in late December when ministry of health officials broke the news that she will be among 170 health workers to be dispatched to Ebola-hit West African countries.

Speaking to Xinhua on Thursday during an orientation workshop for medical volunteers to be flown to Ebola hotspots, Kiilu confessed her enthusiasm to assist the suffering irrespective of risks.

"As a career nurse, I have an obligation to attend to the sick and needy wherever they are and have defied warnings from family and peers to venture into a region where Ebola is not only lethal but a nightmare to everyone," Killu told Xinhua.

The Ebola pandemic ravaging Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has triggered a global scare forcing nations to mobilize resources and personnel to combat the hemorrhagic fever.

Kenya endorsed an African Union resolution last year calling on member states to support the fight against Ebola in West Africa.

The Kenyan government last fall committed 1 million U.S. dollars and 700 health workers to boost the war against Ebola in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Kiilu will be among the first batch of Kenyan medical workers to be deployed on Jan. 9 to Ebola hotspots.

Kiilu was emphatic that financial gain did not motivate her to apply for a job in a high risk zone.

"Many people warned me against taking a plunge into troubled waters but I reminded them medicine is a calling. Even my husband and children were shocked when I told them of the decision to go to West Africa," said Kiilu.

She revealed that her family members accepted her decision after extensive counseling.

Kiilu and her Kenyan colleagues will stay in the Ebola hotspots for six months to offer care and treatment to patients.

The energetic female nurse said trained medical officers across Africa have an obligation to assist communities affected by Ebola.

"Why should we bury our heads in the sand when a highly contagious disease is threatening our existence? Ebola is not a West African challenge, it has affected everyone in this interconnected world," Kiilu said.

Also read: East African ministers resolve to mitigate spread of Ebola

Kenyan medics had limited understanding of Ebola until it became an international public health crisis last fall.

As for Angela Mbogho, Ebola was an alien epidemic confined to tropical jungles in central Africa.

Mbogho admitted that the devastation caused by Ebola in West Africa pricked her conscience hence the decision to apply for volunteer work in the epidemic hotspots.

"Having been a nurse for the last 24 years, I can confess that no infectious disease would rival Ebola in terms of deaths and suffering," Mbogho said.

The mother of four has a wealth of knowledge on communicable diseases having cared for tuberculosis and HIV/Aids patients in her native Taita Taveta county.

Mbogho confessed that her decision to fly to West Africa to offer clinical care to Ebola patients shocked the next of kin and friends.

"My husband and children were apprehensive since they thought I was taking unnecessary risks. To them, Ebola is still a risk but I convinced them am bound by Hippocratic Oath to treat all patients irrespective of the nature of ailment," Mbogho told Xinhua.

She participated in intensive four day training by the Ministry of Health on basic tenets of Ebola treatment and care.

The African Union will facilitate travel and upkeep of Kenyan medical volunteers during their six months stint in countries affected by Ebola.

Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia disclosed that all the health workers will be entitled to an insurance cover and modest living allowance.

"The government is coordinating with our allies to ensure all health workers are not exposed to the risk of contracting Ebola during their stay in West Africa," Macharia told reporters.

Kenyan medics were ecstatic as they prepared to travel to Ebola- hit West African states.

Kennedy Genga, a middle-aged clinical officer, was elated when he received the news of his impending journey to West Africa.

The father of four told Xinhua he was prepared to join the fight against a virulent epidemic that threatened humanity.

"I'm ready to join an army of health workers from all corners of this planet to fight an epidemic that threatens our very existence," Genga told Xinhua.

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- Xinhua

Tags kenya ebola

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