PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON EBOLA AND ITS IMPACT ON OUR SOCIETY- (PART FIVE): “EBOLA MUST GO”—EVERYONE TO GET INVOLVED

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The war against Ebola is at a critical point whereby the rate of infection has and is reducing considerably but the necessity and yet difficulty of bringing it down to zero the soonest. The thrust of this fifth article of the series that is focused on the Ebola Virus Disease and its devastating impact on all of the Liberian society and the ongoing war to eradicate it and mitigate its impact is on encouraging everyone to get on board and end this menace in our country and sub-region. For this we need the right and most effective and efficient strategy, an integrity approach, and getting everybody to play his/her part. The sooner we restore normalcy to our country the better it will be for all. The fourth article on the need for an appropriate messaging made the following points:

To undergird any strategy to eradicate Ebola is the right messaging. Messaging is absolutely vital to any attempts to persuade people to do something, especially if it involves asking them to change their mental attitude and behavior. Any kind of propaganda (whether it is a war of any kind, a political platform, a new policy, a marketing strategy, or any human endeavor that asks the voluntary involvement of other people) requires the right kind of messaging if it is to succeed. In fact, communication of which messaging is one kind, is a necessity for all who lead or influence others in one form or the other. Sometime the difference between success and failure depends on the kind of message one employs.

The fight against the deadly Ebola Virus Disease in Liberia has been helped or hampered by the messages used. For example, earlier on in the fight, out of ignorance and lack of experience in dealing with an emergency of the Ebola kind, people were told not to touch anyone who was sick and that Ebola had no cure and this message was not qualified. That led to some sick persons being abandoned and people suspected of having Ebola not wanting to go for any treatment and thus leading to their deaths! But as our understanding of the virus improved messaging included isolating the sick and caring for them while protecting the caregivers and that an early treatment could lead to a cure for some.

Phase two now requires clear, simple messaging around safe burials, isolation of the sick, speedy and effective communication about cases and contacts, contact tracing, and quarantine of suspected people and supplying them with food and other basic needs. The messages have to be unambiguous and consistent. All partners in the fight must synchronize their messages and get them across to all via radio stations (national and local), jingles, dramas, and reaching out to as many as possible on one on one basis. The Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Liberian Media Center (LMC) and other news outlets, both print and electronic, can play a crucial role in the dissemination of the massages. A clear message on Ebola and the war against it can change perception and behavior in the right direction. And the fight against Ebola desperately needs a behavioral change at the community and personal levels if it is to succeed.

To eradicate Ebola requires the involvement and participation of everybody. All of those making interventions must bring all they can to bear on the community approach—community to community, door to door, and person to person effort. The President of Liberia (President Sirleaf), the government, the Ministry of Health, especially the Incident Management System (IMS) headed by Minister Tolbert Nyesuah, and all key partners agree that the community and regional approach and coordinating all efforts on the ground are vital to winning the fight quickly.

There are massive efforts to train thousands of chiefs and community health volunteers (gCHV’s) and I trust this  includes men, women, youths, teachers, pastors, imams, and zoes and other traditional opinion leaders. The goal is to reach every district, town, village, and home as quickly as possible for effective contract tracing. There must be proper coordination among county health teams, all partners making interventions, and the traditional administrative structure on the ground. The message has to get through that it is in the interest of all for Ebola to end now.

Some partners are working strenuously to get a directory of all who are fighting Ebola at the local level (who is doing what, when, and where) so that efforts are not duplicated but rather collaborated and enhanced. It is now recognized that there must be a regional approach using existing structures such as the Minor River Union, the different women regional networks, inter-religious and other networks already in place to collaborate for the defeat of Ebola entirely. Everyone has got to be persuaded or forced through community structure to comply for the common good of all.

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