Experimental Drugs and Vulnerable Populations

I read a very interesting and thought provoking article this week by Fiston Mahamba, a freelance journalist in Beni ( https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/congo-becomes-testing-ground-experimental-drugs-it-fights-ebola ). His article was on the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo and outlines a number of experimental drugs approved to treat people with Ebola.


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The current outbreak is a conflict zone, this makes it difficult for the health personnel to reach the people who need treatment and protection from Ebola as well as control the spread of the disease. Reading through his article, the word that came to mind was ACCESS. The people in the conflict zone need access to healthcare, while the healthcare providers are struggling to access the populations that require their services.


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Access is a word that has several meanings. Today I will use some of the meanings as outlined by the Cambridge dictionary.

Meaning 1: The method or possibility of getting near to a place or a person.

Meaning 2: The right or opportunity to use or look at something

Meaning 3: To open a computer file in order to look or change information in it

Meaning 4: The right or opportunity to receive something

From the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic of Congo, access is the key word. The medical personnel are struggling to access the affected populations due to the security situation in the area. The affected people are struggling to access the much needed healthcare. The people in the affected regions are lacking access to information crucial to their survival with regard to disease prevention, control and treatment.

Map of Congo showing North Kivu Province, Ituri Province, Butembo, Beni, Mangina and latest ebola outbreak information as of 7 August 2018

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The people in the affected areas are vulnerable and in a very difficult situation, trying to survive a conflict and a deadly disease that is wiping out families. Most of them are living in poor rural communities lacking infrastructure and healthcare services.

A number of experimental drugs  have been approved for use to treat people in the affected areas so as to combat the outbreak. Being experimental drugs, a lot is yet to be known with regard to side effects, be it severe, mild or adverse. One area of concern is that these drugs are being used in this difficult to access population, will their be any follow up to understand the effectiveness as well as any other outcomes as a result of the drugs? What is the criteria being used regarding the health and safety of the people receiving these drugs?You Deserve a Vacation!

Ebola has a mortality rate in some cases as high as 80-90%, and the need to contain, treat and control the disease is of utmost importance. It is worth considering also the long term effects of such kind of treatment on populations, especially vulnerable rural populations and in this case in conflict zones who may have little chance of follow up or treatment should any complications arise in the short and or long term.

 

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