Red Cross officials working on the frontlines of the fight against Ebola in West Africa say the virus is spreading at a rapid pace, and now they’re having trouble recruiting enough health workers to stop it.
Officials with the French Red Cross said Monday that it’s easier to recruit people to go to Iraq, despite the security hazards there, the Associated Press reported. The Red Cross is also facing a new problem it’s never encountered before: Sixty percent of people who sign up to work in the Ebola “hot zone” end up backing out later due to pressure from concerned families and friends.
The Red Cross was one of the first aid groups on the ground when the Ebola outbreak emerged in Guinea last March. Currently, the agency has more than 7,700 volunteers mobilized in and around the three hardest countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea — providing everything from technical and financial support to education, awareness, and outreach efforts.
Because of their close contact with severely ill patients, health care workers are especially vulnerable to contracting Ebola. More than 300 doctors, nurses and other health care workers have died of the disease since the outbreak began. That toll grew on Monday with the death of Dr. Martin Salia, a surgeon from Sierra Leone, who was in extremely critical condition when he arrived Saturday for treatment at Nebraska Medical Center.
Recently, officials from the World Health Organization had expressed hope that the outbreak could be starting to level-off in parts of Liberia. However, Birte Hald of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told the Associated Press that the virus “is flaring up in new villages, in new locations.”
“It is absolutely premature to start being optimistic,” she added.
So far, the outbreak in West Africa — the worst in history — has sickened more than 14,4oo people and killed at least 5,177 according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.