MONROVIA: Doctors and nurses across Liberia went on strike on Monday to demand danger money to care for Ebola patients, as the World Health Organization called the health crisis the worst in modern times.
Health care workers in west Africa are on the frontline of the worst-ever Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 4,000 people this year, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and the hardest-hit, Liberia.
The Liberian walkout came as US officials said the United States must “rethink” its approach to Ebola after a female nurse in Texas contracted the tropical virus, in the first case of contamination on US soil and the second outside Africa.
As the US case fuelled global jitters, President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Francois Hollande issued a joint call for “stepped-up” global efforts to combat the disease.
And European Union ministers called a meeting for Thursday to discuss screening travellers from Ebola-hit west Africa, in line with steps taken by Britain, the United States and Canada.
In the face of panic that was “spreading faster than the virus”, the WHO issued a stark warning that the Ebola crisis was “the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times”.
“I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies and governments in already very poor countries,” said WHO chief Margaret Chan in a statement delivered on her behalf at a Manila conference.
“I have never seen an infectious disease contribute so strongly to potential state failure.”
In Liberia, the chairman of the national health workers’ union, Joseph Tamba, said his strike call had been heeded.
“Health workers across the country have downed tools as we asked them to do,” Tamba told Agence France-Presse.