Brisbane: Health workers on the frontline of West Africa's Ebola crisis pleaded with G20 leaders today for more resources, describing horrific working conditions as they attempt to contain the deadly outbreak.
Liberian nurse Laurene Wisseh said health workers had been reduced to using plastic bags in an attempt to protect themselves due to a lack of rubber gloves and hazmat suits.
Ambulance officer Gorden Kamara said there were just 15 ambulances for a population of 1.5 million in the country and one doctor per 14,000 head of population, compared to about 40 per 14,000 in Britain.
"We have nothing," he told a nursing conference in Brisbane via Skype.
"The shortage of protective equipment at healthcare facilities has led to a high infection and death rate among healthcare workers, which has led to an abandonment of hospitals and clinics."
Kamara was speaking as leaders from the Group of 20 most powerful economies began arriving in Brisbane, with Ebola expected to be among the topics discussed.
According to a statement obtained Wednesday by AFP in the United States, Washington will use the G20 meeting to push the International Monetary Fund to cancel US$100 million in debts owed by Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said this would free up resources to help fight the outbreak, which has killed some 5,000 people in West Africa, with Liberia hit hardest and the contagion still raging in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea.
"It is true that West Africa has been infected but it must be seen as a global tragedy," said Nigerian nurses association president Abdrafiu Adeniji, who travelled to Australia for the summit.
"Nobody knows where it might arrive tomorrow. It takes just one person with Ebola to get into a country and then the country will be on fire."
Wisseh said there was an urgent lack of resources.
"We need the world's help now to stop the spread of Ebola," she said.
"At the moment, we are sharing equipment, sometimes reusing disposable gloves and in the worst-case scenario using plastic bags to protect against Ebola."
Kamara described how one of his colleagues contracted the virus because he did not have a hazmat suit when treating an infant and the child vomited on him when he was being carried to an ambulance.
The ambulance officer recovered but Kamara said health workers were one of the hardest hit groups in Liberia and hundreds had died.