Significant progress seen in effort to curtail health and humanitarian crisis
by Elisabeth Anderson Rapport, ACF USA
According to the World Health Organization, for the first time since June 2014, there were fewer than 100 new confirmed cases reported in a week in the three most-affected countries, during the last week of January. Case incidence continues to fall in all three nations.
Organizations like Action Against Hunger have been hard at work, and we’ve been generously supported by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation in our efforts. A significant part of our grant went to improving Ebola prevention awareness and training community health volunteers–and that’s what’s at the heart of our success. The people we’ve worked with and trained–they are the ones, so passionate about their families and communities, who have made and continue to make all the difference in combating this terrible disease. To illustrate, here’s a look at some of that work in action in Montserrado County, Liberia.
A community-based approach
A short drive outside of the bustling city of Monrovia quickly turns into a thin, dirt road surrounded by dense jungle. Scattered throughout are hundreds of communities of all sizes, many of which live without electricity, running water, or nearby health facilities. On this particular day, our hygiene team joined staff from partner organization Ground Water Exploration Inc. (GWEI) to start a 90 minute drive.
The destination was a community of roughly 80 households. The teams had been to the village previously to introduce the project to the local leaders and to choose and train local residents to teach hygiene messages to their families and neighbours. The mobilizers were easy to spot in their bright yellow shirts branded with logos for Action Against Hunger, GWEI, the Liberian Ministry of Health, and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
People of all ages gathered in the community center to hear important messages from our staff and our GWEI colleagues. They were reminded to avoid personal contact with Ebola patients, to not touch dead bodies, and to call the Ebola hotline if people are sick with symptoms.
Hand washing kits to curb disease like Ebola
Each head of household was registered the week before, and was given a registration tab. As registration began, each person brought their slip up, signed their name, received one last review of the hand washing kit instructions, and then was handed their household kit. The mixture instructions were demonstrated for all to see and were purposefully simple–mix one flattened scoop of powdered chlorine with each full bucket of water. Warnings were also given to store the chlorine out of direct sunlight as it’s combustible, and out of the reach of children as it can easily be mistaken for cooking substances such as sugar. In all, together with GWEI we’ve delivered 3,358 household hand washing kits and 60 community hand-washing kits for this project.
The team had a couple more stops that day. They assembled at the local church near OAU village and trained community mobilizers as well as the people who volunteered to be responsible for each community hand washing station. One station was given to the local church, one to the local mosque, and four were to be placed in the local market, one at each entrance. The leader from the mosque requested an extra community hand washing kit as cultural norms require men and women to use separate stations. NGOs regularly face these types of dilemmas and must be consistent and fair with their limited resources while also taking into consideration how culture may impact the needs on the ground.
Moving on to their last stop, the local market, the team took extra time to ensure that the kits were set up properly and working. They also took time to repeat their messaging and ensure that community mobilizers understand the importance of their responsibilities–that their efforts would go a long way towards eradicating Ebola for good.
Originally published on www.actionagainsthunger.org, Feb 4, 2015.