West African Ingenuity out of Necessity – Garbage Bag Protection Suits Helping to Address Ebola.

I am  strangely speechless this morning.  Have you heard about this recent Liberian hero?

I was reading about a Liberian women who Saved Three Family Members From Ebola, and certainly saved herself and others in her community from contracting ebola by using garbage bags.  A homemade garbage bag protection suit was made by nurse Fatu Kekula in Liberia to protect herself as she treated family members with ebola. With no protection suits for many health workers, sadly, but thankfully, her method is now being taught to other nurses in rural areas who have no supplies.

“How modest their expectations and, in this brutal land, how impossible to fulfill.”
(Moritz Thomsen. The Farm On The River of Emeralds)

Really Moritz?

This is ingenuity out of necessity. If this does not highlight how serious the state of health care is in Liberia what will wake us up to the truth?

“Essentially this is a tale of how communities are doing things for themselves,” (Sarah Crowe UNICEF Spokeswoman)

This female hero shatters the idea that many Africans are ignorant, hysterical, and clueless about what it takes to address the family, community, and country ebola health crisis. Are Liberians any more hysterical than Americans with it’s resent victim in Texas? Some conversations taking place on CNN are alarming. I bet there are dozens more stories of people like her. Could it be that we have a preference, a bias even, to hear about the western and Europeans swooping in to “Save Africa”? For every foreign medical worker in the affected regions is dozens if not hundreds of local medical staff working all around them. Sories of family members stepping up to do for sick loved ones what the system can not do. Taking all the precautions they know how to do (Sterilization, hand washing, limiting exposure), yet some end up paying the price.

“I was being assaulted on all sides by this culture of poverty which I had so naively decided to embrace, and I was getting to the point where I didn’t know what I felt about things anymore — or even what I was supposed to feel.” (Moritz Thomsen. The Farm On The River of Emeralds)

Stories like this make me feel better.

Stories like this woman’s garbage bag experience need to be shouted from the roof top, told over and over again by media until we get the message. West Africans are not stupid, and thought they have few resources to work with, given a chance they can get much of the job done themselves. Fatu was hung out to dry, but she overcame despite the fact no one would come to help her, not even the local doctor, though to his credit, he did give advice over the phone.

“Science and technology in the tropics are whores.” (Moritz Thomsen. The Farm On The River of Emeralds)

“…. Fatu, who’s in her final year of nursing school, invented her own equipment. International aid workers heard about Fatu’s “trash bag method” and are now teaching it to other West Africans who can’t get into hospitals and don’t have protective gear of their own.

Every day, several times a day for about two weeks, Fatu put trash bags over her socks and tied them in a knot over her calves. Then she put on a pair of rubber boots and then another set of trash bags over the boots.

She wrapped her hair in a pair of stockings and over that a trash bag. Next she donned a raincoat and four pairs of gloves on each hand, followed by a mask.

It was an arduous and time-consuming process, but Fatu was religious about it, never cutting corners.”

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