While Ebola continues to spread in West Africa, one of the main dialogues focuses on the disconnect between the rural poor and accessible healthcare. Though this is not uniquely an Ebola problem nor a West African one, the rural poor populations have exacerbated this epidemic.
Many rural Africans, particularly in regions of East Africa, are still treated by local healers, many of whom are not certified and perpetuate myths about illnesses. With these healers, who are affordable for many lower income families, improper health care treatments are provided. Thus healthcare and income inequality spur one another on in turn.
Without access to the more costly but effective doctors, illnesses like Ebola and HIV/AIDS run rampant due to misdiagnoses and improper courses of treatment. Even with hospital care, the cost of travel to medical centers (usually over long distances), compounded with the cost of treatment and prescriptions, is often too great for people to pay.
Instead of getting proper treatment, poor populations are forced to settle for secondary, substandard care. In the cases that they are able to get free assistance, the demand is often too great to be supported by rural clinics, which are often sporadic in nature.
Part of the problem of such pandemics is the inaccessibility of rural patients. Because of the lack of money these people have for travel to the cities, doctors are instead forced to go out into the rural regions and try and find the people affected with the disease. But because newcomers are unfamiliar, villagers meet the doctor at times with hesitancy and confusion.
With the increase in medical technology and quality healthcare, poverty still remains a barrier to access – for both sides. The inability to access and properly treat a large proportion of the infected public has caused epidemics to be much worse. In order to help prevent future outbreaks, global health officials are reevaluating how to prepare and eliminate the poverty barrier in future cases.
– Kristin Ronzi
Sources: Reuters, Southern Times Africa