Liberian Ebola medics go back to work after strike

Liberian doctors and nurses at the frontline of the Ebola epidemic returned to work today after a two-day strike demanding hazard pay in the country hardest hit by the crisis.

Monrovia: Liberian doctors and nurses at the frontline of the Ebola epidemic returned to work Wednesday after a two-day strike demanding hazard pay in the country hardest hit by the crisis.

"We are back on job. Our leaders told us to do so and we have resumed full service until otherwise ordered," said Alphonso Wesseh, a spokesman for staff at the Island Clinic in the capital Monrovia.

"We wanted people to know that we are not paid the way we should be and this has to change," he said. "We have problems with our families because our wives and children think we are taking too much risk."

Residents hailed their return.

"Thank you Lord... To have put reason in the health workers. I ask you to bless and guide them in their work," said 32-year-old Famanta Yassa, whose daughter is being treated for Ebola.

"You cannot blame the health workers. It is true that they took an oath to save lives but they are taking too many risks. They are making sacrifices because they are not properly paid," she added.

Ebola patients also voiced relief. "All those we did not see Monday and Tuesday are here. We are well taken care of, I am happy," one told AFP by telephone.

The health care workers ended their strike late Tuesday, saying they decided to put their country's needs first following global appeals to end the protest.

Ninety-six Liberian health workers have died so far in the epidemic and their colleagues were seeking compensation for the risk of dealing with Ebola, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids and for which there is no vaccine or widely available treatment.

Shortly before the workers ended their strike, news emerged of the United States pledging $5 million (four million euros) to Liberia for their danger pay.

Rajiv Shah, the head of the US Agency for International Development, announced the contribution after meeting Tuesday with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

In Guinea meanwhile, President Alpha Conde, saying he wanted to mobilise "all available human resources" in the fight against Ebola, urged retired health workers to report for duty.

Hundreds of health workers are retired, a pensions official told AFP. A union leader said they would need clear assurances on their safety and other issues.

According to the World Health Organization's latest toll published today, 4,493 people have died from Ebola as of October 12 out of a total of 8,997 registered cases in seven countries.