This Article is From Apr 18, 2015

700 Liberian Ebola Workers Protest for Hazard Pay

700 Liberian Ebola Workers Protest for Hazard Pay

File Photo: Medical staff members wear protective Ebola suits (Agence France-Presse)

Monrovia: Seven hundred Liberian Ebola workers took to the streets of the capital Monrovia for a second day today to demand promised hazard pay.

"We took risks so we deserve our benefits," demonstrators chanted as the protest began Friday, when they disrupted a ceremony during which French charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) was to hand over management of Liberia's main Ebola unit to the government.

"Tolbert Nyensuah give us our money," they said, referring to the head of the government's Ebola response team.

 The workers hired by MSF, which has been in the forefront of the battle against the west African epidemic, today again blocked the entrance to Liberia's and the world's biggest Ebola facility.

The Ebola Treatment Unit, known as ELWA 3, has more than 400 beds and a work force including 700 healthcare workers hired by MSF.

It was the country's reference facility during the height of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, which has recorded no new cases in several weeks.

"We were here when the heat was on. We took risks, some of our colleagues died, but we continue our work to save the lives of the thousands of Liberians who had the virus," a spokesman for the workers told AFP.

"We were told that we would receive risk benefits at the end of the epidemic. MSF wants to turn over (ELWA 3) to the government and the government has not yet given us our risk benefit," Amara Sambolah said.

The protesters did not indicate the amount of the hazard pay they say is owed by the government. MSF officials at the protests declined to comment.

Saye Bawuo, Liberia's assistant health minister, apologised for the cancellation of Friday's event and said the health ministry would "look into this issue, to see how redress can be attended to."

Liberia is one of three countries, together with Guinea and Sierra Leone, that were ravaged by the worst outbreak of Ebola in history.

The epidemic has killed at least 10,600 people since December 2013, some 500 of them healthcare workers.

At the height of the outbreak last September and October, Libera was registering more than 300 new cases each week.