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Kenya reaps big from key role in fight against Ebola

Kenya’s participation in the management of Ebola in West Africa has equipped the country with professionals and capacity to manage the disease and other viral haemorrhagic fevers such as Marburg.

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said this on Sunday at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi when he received 155 volunteer health workers, returning home after a six-month stay in West Africa to help manage Ebola outbreak.

“Through their invaluable experience that they have gained, the country is fully prepared to handle any suspected cases of viral haemorrhagic fevers”.

The team is part of the contingent of 170 healthcare workers who had been flagged off to Sierra Leone and Liberia on January 9, 2015.

Of the 155, 84 were stationed at Liberia while 71 were in Sierra Leone. Fifteen health workers — eight in Liberia and seven in Sierra Leone — will come back  in August.

The ministry said the healthcare workers were considered low risk for infection because they have not interacted with any confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in the past 21 days.

The volunteers, drawn from 700 applicants, consisted of experts from epidemiology, internal medicine, laboratory technology, nursing and health communication.

They underwent intensive training on prevention and management before being deployed to West Africa.

SPREAD OF VIRUS

The Kenyan team is praised for being part of the concerted efforts that contained the virus, leading to the World Health Organisation declaring Liberia Ebola-free on May 9.

Cases in Sierra Leone have reduced from as high as 500 each week as of December 2014, to a manageable 15 a week.

The Kenyan team went to West Africa amid dread and gloom because official numbers from WHO had pegged fatality of health care workers at 57 per cent.

By January 4, some 838 medical personnel had been infected in the two countries, against a biting need of 5,000 health care workers to tame the spread of the virus.

The health workers were later hosted for breakfast by President Uhuru Kenyatta at State  House, where he promised they would be rewarded for their services.

He instructed the Ministry of Health to give jobs to any volunteer who is not permanently employed as a show of appreciation. He said the example set by the volunteers would inspire many Kenyans to help in finding solutions to problems facing the country.

“The problem with many of us is that we like to mourn instead of solving problems. You shall remain an inspiration to many others,” said the President.

He said the West African intervention had taught Africa that it could deal with its problems.

Earlier, upon landing at JKIA on Sunday morning, the health workers were screened for Ebola.

Additional reporting by Samuel Karanja