UN: Health workers in Sierra Leone to receive Ebola hazard pay

New York, US (PANA) - Response workers battling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa will receive "hazard pay" for the first time in Sierra Leone using mobile money because unless there is a certain element of incentives, or danger pay, it is very difficult to attract and retain people, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced on Tuesday.

Mr. Sudipto Mukerjee, UNDP’s Country Director for Sierra Leone, in a statement, said: "One of the most difficult things about tackling the Ebola crisis is in the area of human resources. You can construct a treatment centre in a couple of months. You can construct a community care centre in two to three weeks, but getting trained people to come and run them has been a major challenge."

Mr. Mukerjee said the transition from direct cash to an electronic solution would help to improve overall efficiency, timeliness and security of payments for Ebola response workers.

"We cannot afford to lose a single minute where people have put their tools down and refuse to work. That is why reliable and predictable mobile payments are so significant," he said.

"These people are working on the front lines. They could be alive today and dead tomorrow. If they are not paid on time, if they are not paid the right amount of money, they get frustrated and they tend to protest, which means that whatever Ebola care is being provided will no longer be available. We cannot afford a strike. We have to keep the whole system going," he noted.

The UNDP official said the current cycle of hazard payments was being made from 15-19 December.

"Ebola is known as a caregiver’s disease. If you are a clinician in the red zone, you are possibly at much greater risk than the average person. Unless there is a certain element of incentives, or danger pay, it is very difficult to attract and retain people," Mukerjee said.

In addition to the cash transfer development in Sierra Leone, the statement said in Liberia, a hotline had been established and a target had been established to make all back payments by the end of the year.

In Guinea, UNDP and its partners were harmonizing payment scales across paying organizations and improving the quality of payroll lists.

Also on Tuesday, UNMEER reported that Liberia had begun treating Ebola patients with serum therapy, which was a form of treatment made from the blood of recovered survivors, and that an Australian-run British-built medical centre for Ebola patients had opened in Sierra Leone near the capital, Freetown.

UNMEER also said Liberia was scheduled now to hold delayed senatorial elections on 20 December, based on its Supreme Court ruling the vote should go ahead despite the Ebola outbreak.

Meanwhie, in Geneva on Tuesday, Christophe Boulierac, spokesperson for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who just returned from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa, underlined the specific challenges confronting the fight against the virus in Guinea.

He said Guinea was the biggest and the most populated of the three Ebola-affected countries where neither a peacekeeping mission nor military contingents were present, unlike Liberia, and it was a country with poor infrastructure and few partners and non-governmental organizations present.

"Several rapid response teams have been sent there to provide swift and flexible response wherever needed," he said, outlining the challenges in raising awareness that was being resisted in some communities as well as insecurity that complicated the work being carried out by Ebola response teams.
-0- PANA AA/MA 16Dec2014

16 december 2014 22:25:23

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