Local Liberian Communities Take Action

The fight against the Ebola epidemic is a critical global issue that has captivated the attention of the broader international community. It has been a decade since Liberia emerged from an extended civil war. During this period of reconstruction, Liberia has moved forward on a path to recovery by achieving progress in health, education, and economic development. Sadly, the current epidemic threatens to undo the gains made over the past decade. The Government of Liberia has been overwhelmed by the rapid spread of the Ebola virus disease. Further, significant delays in foreign assistance has hindered disease containment efforts.

I have been fortunate at JSI to work with people from around the globe, committed to improving the health of the underserved, and often times staff are working in their own country and even neighborhoods. One those people is our Administrative Officer, Earl Mulbah, living and working in Liberia on the USAID-funded Rebuilding Basic Health Services project implemented by John Snow, Inc. (JSI). During the early stages of the epidemic, Earl had a unique opportunity to get firsthand training on how to identify Ebola symptoms and protect himself, family, and community from the disease.

All Liberians have been affected by Ebola in some way or another. In Earl's community, the Samuel K. Doe (SKD) Blvd., 72nd community in District 5 of Montserrado County, there were two incidents that led them to take action and intervene to keep the,selves safe from Ebola. The first situation happened when a man from a nearby community decided to move nearby. In this time of Ebola, it is understood that people should not move around unnecessarily. When the community chairman saw this new person arrive, he requested an investigation into who he was and why he had moved. And after gathering the information, Earl and his neighbors determined that the newcomer had left another community after being in a house with a suspected Ebola case. The man was then sent back to his community.

A second incident happened in a small house that was occupied by many family members. One of the household members went to a funeral, touched an Ebola-infected corpse, became infected and infected others living in the house. A number of people in the household died and nine people who had contact with them, who were living outside the house, were taken to an Ebola Treatment Unit.

With the leadership of community chairmen and other community residents in Earl's neighborhood, everyone agreed that the health of the people matters, and that they should work together to remain healthy and safe. Since then, people and communities like Earl's, have taken ownership of the Ebola epidemic situation by educating their own communities and making sure everyone is doing what they can to help stop the spread of the disease.

In August 2014, a community meeting in neighborhood Block B in Liberia came together to discuss ways to prevent the spread of Ebola. At the meeting, members of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare trained volunteers from the Dream Academy, a local school with strong community ties. The Dream Academy, in turn, trained the Block B Community Task Force. Trainers provided essential supplies such as chlorine buckets and disinfectants to jump start our community's Ebola prevention campaign.

After receiving training, the community was encouraged by local leaders to take action. The community showed great commitment by creating a task force to support the existing community watch team, which helps prevent crime in our area.

The task force's mandate was to:
  • Create awareness in the Block B community of the symptoms and risks of the virus and provide guidance on what to do if someone is symptomatic;
  • Locate ill persons who could be hidden in the community;
  • Ensure that visits within the community are monitored;
  • Provide assistance to people affected by calling the National Health Team;
  • Ensure that those who could be affected by the virus are not moving from one community to another;
  • Provide status updates on the fight against Ebola at task force meetings;
  • Provide education on health and hygiene.
  • Finally, the entire Block B community agreed to collect US$5 from every head of household to purchase the needed materials to help the community task force to safely do their work.

    In the end, it is Liberians who are the most affected by Ebola, and who will stop the spread of the virus. Therefore, we will continue to support them as they take action in their homes, communities, and workplaces to contain this deadly virus.