South African eHealth organisation, Jembi, has teamed up with USAID, ThoughtWorks, IntraHealth International, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to rapidly develop a mobile communications system, called mHero, to give health workers in Liberia the resources they need to fight Ebola and the dangerous associated rumours.

mHero, which is set to be available by the end of the month, links a database about Liberia’s healthcare workers — including cell phone numbers for about 5,000 of them — with a new UNICEF software platform enabling health authorities to share information in a variety of ways.

“None of these health workers ever learned about Ebola before this epidemic,” said Director of Health Workforce Informatics at IntraHealth, Dykki Settle. “We now have technology that’s going to overcome the barriers presented by the infection and the collapse of their healthcare system, to get good information to health workers and turn them into the great asset their country really needs.”

Good information is essential to slowing the spread of Ebola; Liberian newspapers recently ran stories alleging that Ebola was a hoax perpetrated by the US to spread HIV. “You want to get good information to those on the frontlines,” said Settle. “If health workers don’t know how to prevent spread they are contributing to it rather than preventing it.”

The Ebola epidemic has also gained the attention of local eHealth developers, the Praekelt Foundation, who are developing a specialised app to promote awareness about the disease.

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