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Praise for Ebola nurses at Commonwealth conference

The two nurses told the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation conference about their work to prevent the spread of Ebola in West Africa

 

Two nurses who fought to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus were praised at the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation (CNMF) conference in London.

Michael Koroma.  Photo credit: Barney Newman

Ghanaian-trained Michael Koroma and UK-based nurse and midwife Isha Daramy-Kabia received a standing ovation after their talk at the Royal College of Physicians on Saturday.

Speaking to RCNi, the pair explained how they took immediate action following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

The two nurses worked together in Sierra Leone with the religious and medical organisation the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God.

They had to take action to change cultural behaviours which were contributing to the spread of Ebola.

Mr Koroma said: ‘By then the politicians were leading the response, but they were proving unable to change people’s behaviour.

‘Washing the dead, burying bodies, taking sick people out of their homes; all of these were normal practices but they were all helping to spread the disease.

‘We brought together religious leaders, politicians, the police and the military and helped people to temporarily stop these things until the threat had passed.

‘The military were using their guns to frighten people into quarantine; we lobbied them to not be aggressive and to explain [to people] why it was necessary for them to stay inside.’

Ms Daramy-Kabia revealed how having done this, their focus then changed to caring for the sick and those in quarantine.

Grappling with logistical issues, such as a lack of transport, money and staff, she explained how they were able to help create temporary ‘transit locations’ where people came to be monitored for signs of the disease, a process which could last for up to three weeks.

She said: ‘We visited them, we fed them, played music and made them laugh. Many needed new clothes as everything they owned had been burned to halt the virus.'

Mr Koroma added he and Ms Daramy-Kabia were ‘still working together now’ and were determined ‘to make a good change’ in the country.

Asked about the reaction to their talk he replied: ‘It went very well and I was pleased to see that so many people enjoyed it.’

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