The largest outbreak of Ebola in recorded history has infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa and killed at least 2,630 as of September 16, 2014 (World Health Organization). Of the 5 West African countries in which Ebola has spread, nearly half of those infected have been in Liberia. All major hospitals and clinics have closed in Liberia because health workers do not feel safe going to work, fearing there isn’t enough protective equipment for them. Additionally, Liberians have described rampant mistrust that keeps sick people and their families from seeking help. There is also widespread misinformation about how the disease spreads, which prevents communities from protecting themselves.
Despite the grim news, there is reason to be hopeful for West Africa’s people. In the past week, world leaders and organizations have announced major increases in the international response to fight Ebola.
AJWS has actively responded to the Ebola crisis. Since August, we have raised more than $182,000 for our Emergency Fund to fight Ebola in Liberia, thanks to the generous support of our donors.
With our Emergency Fund, AJWS has currently made grants to seven organizations in Liberia—all of which are established, on-the-ground efforts responding to the immediate needs of their communities. These organizations are helping to replace panic with trust, contain the outbreak and save lives. Through door-to-door outreach and radio broadcasts in local languages, they’re reaching vulnerable communities with high rates of illiteracy, teaching them how to detect and prevent Ebola and distributing essential sanitation supplies.
Here’s what some of our grantees are doing:
Grassroots Agency for Social Services (GRASS) organized a workshop to educate and train Liberians in how to prevent the spread of the virus and dispel misinformation. GRASS has given its trainees megaphones, hand sanitizers and chlorination materials to bring back to their communities, distribute supplies and educate neighborhoods about what they can do to help prevent the virus from spreading.
Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa is reaching out to community-based organizations in the areas of Liberia most affected and most vulnerable to Ebola. This group offers strategies for how their communities can work together to prevent the virus, detect the virus early and provide proper medical attention. Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa is also providing printed materials to the smaller community-based organizations to conduct their own outreach and awareness in their communities.
Mano River Women Peace Network Liberia (MARWOPNET) is using its community radio program to raise public awareness to fight Ebola. In an effort to work with other community organizations around the country to fight Ebola, MARWOPNET’s radio manager has joined with Liberia’s Ministry of Health communication team to develop and broadcast effective information on Ebola. MARWOPNET’s messages reach border communities between Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone—areas in urgent need of accurate information to stop Ebola’s spread.
GRASS, Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa, MARWOPNET and the other organizations we’re funding in Liberia have given us hope. Their hard work, on-the-ground knowledge and commitment to their communities bring us one step closer to ending the Ebola crisis for people in West Africa.