Hospitals and health care facilities have been affected in Liberia as some nurses and medical professionals staged a walkout demanding better pay and safer working conditions in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus.
Sources told Al Jazeera that several hospitals and clinics were hit by the strike on Monday as health workers abandonded hundreds of patients, demanding higher hazard pay and protective equipment.
Health Minister, Walter Gwenigale, confirmed that staff had gone on strike in some parts of the country, but tried to reassure workers that hazard allowances would be paid in full.
“That money is available and is being paid. So please, please stay with your patients,” he said.
A local journalist told Al Jazeera, that many facilities were “virtually abandoned”, with “nurses afraid of touching patients”.
“They refuse to take blood samples from patients or even take their temperature because these require them to touch patients,” Terence Sesay said.
Staff at Monrovia’s Island Clinic, the largest government-run Ebola clinic in the capital, had already been on a “go slow” in recent days in their battle for extra pay.
Dozens of patients in the clinic have died from Ebola since the go-slow began on Friday, staff representative Alphonso Wesseh said.
“We have slowed down our activities because the government refuses to satisfy our request. Last night tens of patients died,” he said.
Liberia’s healthcare workers are on the frontline of the worst outbreak of Ebola that has killed 95 care workers, according to the World Health Organisation.
With monthly salaries said to be as low as $250 a month, calls are mounting for pay to correspond to the risk of dealing with Ebola, for which there is no vaccine or widely-available treatment.
The Ebola outbreak has already crippled already poor health care systems across west Africa, and on Monday the UN warned of acute food shortages in neighbouring Sierra Leone.
Kanayo Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, said up to 40 percent of farms had been abandoned in areas devastated by the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
Nwanze said there were already food shortages in Senegal and other countries in West Africa because regional trade has been disrupted.
The disease has killed more than 4,000 people, most of them in the west African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone and the hardest-hit, Liberia.