Under-Developed Nations Under Fire as COVID-19 Spreads
Updated: May 6
We can't afford to play a Cat and Mouse game with a deadly virus.
As of Apr 20, 2020, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States stands at 770,564 with over 41,000 deaths. That’s approximately 5.3% risk of death for new patients in the world’s most developed country.
On the same date, Singapore recorded a dramatic spike in new cases, confirming 1,426 new COVID-19 infections within the island state in a single day. Foreign workers living in cramped dormitories account for a large number of new cases.
What it shows us is that even in a developed country that has firmly held its ground as one of the best-equipped countries in the world, it can be left unprepared for sudden spikes. Within the United States, some communities are still more socially and economically challenged than others. In these communities, social isolation may not be the ideal solution.
The Coronavirus recognizes no race, religion, ethnicity, culture, financial status, nationality, and knows no boundaries. Without discrimination, the virus makes the call until we find a cure to protect ourselves against it.
The truth is, the more developed a country is, the better the position the government will be in to provide countermeasures against an outbreak.
This leaves under-developed nations in a desperately vulnerable position.
While the rest of the world locks down on people's movement, bringing economies down to a grinding halt, in an effort to 'flatten the curve', the social isolation solution is simply not an option in some cases.
For people living in countries that are essentially cut off from the rest of the world, social isolation could be a deadly game of Russian Roulette. Even humanitarian organizations and workers have had to leap through obstacle courses of red tapes and clearance checks to get past stringent borders.
As authorities and medical professionals wrestle their way around the clock to bring order to the disease, they are still ill-equipped for a potential medical emergency.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are on the ground, deploying as many resources to developing nations like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Djibouti, El Salvador, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Paraguay, Serbia, Ukraine, and Vietnam as the countries strap themselves in for a rough ride against health risks and potential deaths.
These countries are severely under-resourced and their fragile healthcare system may collapse if left without international intervention.
It is inherently driven into us that we need to extend a helping hand out to those who are less privileged and are hunkered down without aid.
We're, after all, dealing with a respiratory illness that may rob its victims from its lifeline - oxygen.
It was reported by Al Jazeera that there are only 20 available ventilation devices for the 2 million people in the Gaza Strip. There is also an inadequate number of beds for the 20 million people that call Burkina Faso home.
In these countries and vulnerable communities, getting fast, efficient, and cost-effective solutions to them should be the game plan.
According to data provided by the World's Bank for 2017, many healthcare systems are under-funded by up to 70%, especially in under-developed countries.
What these under-developed nations need are resources to help stop the spread of the virus, provide adequate support during an outbreak, and funding to bolster a potential economic breakdown.
We don't want to wait and be caught off-guard when infections start spreading unbeknownst to authorities where there is not enough medical equipment and quarantine facilities to cope with an outbreak. Such is the case in Palestine.
It is time for us to look for alternative solutions that work. One good example would be a helmet-based oxygen supply system which is cost-effective and easy to develop.
The helmet-based respiratory NIV Hood, also known as a non-invasive helmet-based ventilation system, has proven itself as a plausible solution for COVID-19 patients.
Without the need for a ventilator or any other machines to hook up to, the helmet-based ventilator uses a mix of oxygen and the correct airflow to provide relief and quickly soften the blow for a COVID-19 patient’s symptoms. In 20%-30% of the cases, the helmet eliminated the need for intubation in patients with COVID-19.
As seen in most underdeveloped countries, there is a severe shortage of facilities, especially ventilators. Using the helmet-based ventilators brings us to the winning side of the equation in underdeveloped countries.
This alternative use of non-invasive ventilation via helmet is another way medical staff can help patients with COVID-19 while trying to keep ICU beds ready for those in critical condition. The helmet also provides both the patients and medical staff with an ease of mind because patients using the helmet-based system are awake and do not require sedation. This way, they maintain their ability to convey their immediate or urgent needs to attending medical staff.
During an outbreak where every second count, putting patients needing urgent attention on the helmet could buy them 6 to 7 hours of extra time before intubation, if necessary.
The helmets also put the most vulnerable people, health workers in these medical facilities, in a better state of mind to perform their duties.
Facing the highest risk for infection are respiratory therapists, emergency room staff, and doctors.
In an ideal, proactive, and calibrated approach to helping these communities deal with a potential outbreak, countries should be bringing in these solutions to bolster the blow.
QUOTE: "During its recent COVID-19 outbreak, the Monza hospital Cereda was affiliated with experienced notable success with the helmets. About 200 patients were simultaneously treated via helmet-based ventilation, compared to 50 to 60 intubated patients." - Dr. Maurizio Franco Cereda of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center
This is where regional and international collaboration comes into play; to level the playing field for the healthcare systems between well-off and underdeveloped countries. What we need is a more uniform and affordable approach to bring the COVID-19 pandemic to its knees. And until we have a cure for it, the winner is still the virus.
Let's look at the big picture because the helmets could change the entire ballgame and it's the wrong time to play the waiting game.