Liberia is in the midst of the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history. Local health care systems are overwhelmed, and the government has requested international support to overcome this global health emergency. However, Liberians are not waiting idly for help to come from elsewhere. Here are seven ways Liberians are addressing the Ebola outbreak themselves.
1. Hygienic Donations: An equally promising and agonizing truth about Ebola is that infections can be prevented with soap and water. Unfortunately, supplies in public places are limited. Individual Liberians and local organizations are donating soap, chlorine, buckets and other hygienic products to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to cover this gap.
2. Hand Washing Stations: Many religious leaders are urging their congregations to observe preventative habits. To encourage hand washing, it is common to see buckets with soap and chlorine available at the entrances to mosques and churches.
3. Fist Bumps: Ebola is transmitted during direct contact with infected fluids or tissue, so minimizing contact reduces transmission. Not only are researchers calling for fist bumps to keep American hospitals sanitary, Liberians are resorting to fist bumps and sometimes even bowing as replacements for handshakes.
4. Mobile Phone Messages: It’s amazing. In Sub-Saharan Africa no matter how remote the location, even if there are no roads, electricity or running water, you can almost always find two things: Coca-Cola and working mobile phones. The private sector in Liberia is contributing to Ebola response efforts as mobile phone companies are spreading Ebola prevention messages to their subscribers, which helps vital information achieve a substantial reach.
5. Community Awareness: Community groups, youth groups and influential individuals like Traditional Midwives are engaged in community awareness activities around Ebola, informing their neighbors how they can keep themselves healthy and how they can help people they know who fall ill.
6. “Contact Tracing”: Contact tracing means keeping track of who comes into contact with an Ebola victim and following up with diagnoses. This process of tracking the spread of the virus is obviously critical to preventing transmissions and helping victims receive treatment early, and volunteer groups are receiving training to perform this important task. With the government’s resources overstretched, a growing network of community members to conduct tracing across remote areas is a crucial grass-roots strategy.
7. Safe Burials: Community-based organizations are conducting safe burials under the supervision of Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Traditional burials, where mourners touch and clean the body of a dead loved one, are the site of numerous Ebola infections. Preventing transmission during burials is key in West Africa, and selfless Liberians are willing to take on an intimidating task to help eliminate this cause of infections.
Although misunderstandings about Ebola are still too prevalent in Liberia, as more communities experience the loss of loved ones, a collective sense of national unity in response to the virus is growing. And people are doing all they can to keep their neighbors safe.
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