On gloves, rubber and the spatio-temporal logics of global health

On the 5th of September, 2014, the blog Konakry Express recounted a report from Mme Fatou Baldé Yansané that there are severe shortages of gloves in health facilities in Guinea. Mme Baldé Yansané writes that midwives have only one or two pair of gloves each week. As a consequence, they have to reuse gloves or merely rub their hands with chlorine after consultations. This message was written over five months after the WHO’s confirmation of an Ebola outbreak in Guinea on their webpage. When I read the blog piece, I was completely stunned: how could it be that five months after the outbreak had entered the world stage, the simplest and cheapest personal protective equipment was still missing in health facilities in the subregion?

Sadly, this is not an isolated incidence. Drew Hinshaw from the Wall Street Journal reports this heartbreaking scenario from Sergeant Kollie Town, Liberia in August:

“Rubber gloves were nearly as scarce as doctors in this part of rural Liberia, so Melvin Korkor would swaddle his hands in plastic grocery bags to deliver babies. His staff didn’t bother even with those when a woman in her 30s stopped by complaining of a headache. Five nurses, a lab technician—then a local woman who was helping out—cared for her with their bare hands. Within weeks, all of them died. The woman with a headache, they learned too late, had Ebola.”

Read more of Uli Beisel’s blog here.