Ethiopia: Concerns over health preparedness grows as Swine flu (A/H1N1) cases rise

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Residents of Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, have been gripped by fear as increasing numbers of people are confirmed by the health ministry as having been infected with the A/H1N1 flu.

There was an unprecedented outbreak of confusion among Ethiopians this week following a confirmation by the Health Ministry of new cases of the swine flu virus.

10 out of 17 suspects who were quarantined have so far been confirmed as being free from infection. However, three individuals out of the remaining seven have been found to be carrying the A/H1N1 flu virus (swine flu).

Meanwhile, there are growing concerns over the country’s preparedness to withstand a pandemic in a backdrop of inadequate medical facilities, especially in highly populated areas like Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has only two specialized hospitals to cater for its population of 80 million. St Peter and St Paulos hospitals have been selected by the ministry of health to quarantine and treat suspected suspected cases.

According to Ahmed Emano, head of public relations of the health ministry, St. Paulos Hospital had earlier on quarantined the 17 suspects, but St. Peter’s hospital proceded to treat the confirmed cases following an order from the ministry.

A team charged with detecting suspected cases of the A/H1N1 virus at the various ports of entry including the Bole International Airport, is reported to have been equipped with the necessary tools.

But according to health experts, there are no control mechanisms to examine any possible surge of the virus among the capital’s nearly 3 million residents.

With only 10 hospitals, experts have indicated that the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa lacks the required number of health institutions. The federal government owns six of them.

According to a World Health Organization requirement, a medical doctor is expected to treat a 10,000 patients while one nurse is to serve up to 1,000, however, a medical doctor in Addis Ababa treats about three times more patients against 4,356 for a nurse, i.e, over four times more than the stipulated limit.

Ahmed Emano’s advice to alarmed Ethiopians is to contact health institutions as soon as they start experiencing flu-like symptoms. Experts, in the meantime, have questioned whether an appropriate action plan has been put in place considering the inadequate health facilities.

Health file  The lack of education and political will, poverty, out-moded traditional beliefs, to mention but a few, have been widely blamed for causing severe and sometimes unwarranted health catastrophies of genocidal proportions on the African continent. Child killer diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, water borne diseases, HIV/AIDS, among other preventable ailments have killed millions in their wake. As rightly said by the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on May 13, 2000 "More people (...) died of Aids in the past year (1999-2000, ndlr) in Africa than in all the wars on the continent".
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