News & commentary about the global health workforce
Vital Home

Let’s Change Headlines: How You Can Help Fight the Spread of Ebola

By Lisa Mangiapani
Former development officer, IntraHealth International

As I watch the news each morning and listen to the update on the Ebola crisis, I find myself asking over and over again, “What can I do to help?”It’s easy to feel helpless in light of the headlines. More than 14,000 infections and over 5,100 deaths have come about in the past eight months from a grisly epidemic that seemingly can’t be contained. It’s a natural disaster on a grand scale without an end or solution in sight.

When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 and the tsunami hit Japan in 2011, our response was clear: donate money to help rebuild, and send aid workers, food, supplies, even chlorine tablets to provide sanitary drinking water.

During such sudden emergencies, the world has a response plan so neighbors, nations, and communities can provide united support immediately after a natural disaster. But what can we do when a disastrous event continues to unfold? When emergency aid won’t provide sustainable relief and a disease is spreading too fast for us to keep up? When health workers on the front lines of care are the most vulnerable to infection?

We can invest in organizations that strengthen the health systems that are already in place. 

I think about my husband and close friends who are health workers here in the United States. Over the years I’ve listened to stories of their struggles and the lack of resources and personnel in their facilities.  It seems there are never enough doctors, nurses, or support staff to adequately take care of everyone. Often they must come up with their own “health hacks” to provide care.  Can’t find a splint? Use that tongue depressor and some tape. Health workers around the world use hacks too—like taping down your scrubs when personal protective gear isn’t handy. But unlike in West Africa, our health system in the US was able to stop any potential outbreak because, despite some holes, our health system is strong.  If countries in West Africa had stronger health systems and more health workers who were present, ready, connected, and safe,the numbers we see in the headlines every morning would never have risen so high.

And this is exactly how you and I can help.  We can invest in organizations that strengthen the health systems that are already in place. That train more in-country health workers who are on the front lines of the disease. We can participate not just in the disaster clean-up but in a more sustainable model that will champion a healthier world.

We can do this by:

  • Training more health workers to be ready for disease outbreaks and able to recognize the symptoms.
  • Connecting health workers to life-saving technology.
  • Ensuring health workers are present where they are needed most through the power of accurate data, effective policies, and strong in-country leadership.
  • Keeping health workers safe from infection, assault, or conflict, so they can continue to provide care.  

That’s what we do at IntraHealth International.

It doesn’t take a lot to make a sustainable difference.

We help build strong, sustainable systems in low- and middle-income countries by working with health-sector leaders and local partners. The stronger the health system—including its health workforce—the healthier a country’s population can become, and the better it can respond to emergencies such as Ebola.

Read more about what IntraHealth is doing to stop Ebola. What can you do to help? Make a donation today to help stop Ebola and support health workers. It doesn’t take a lot to make a sustainable difference.

Together, we can change headlines—and save lives.