The war against Ebola is intensifying and is getting better as the majority of the interventions are coordinating, collaborating, and effectively communicating. Such as an approach consolidates most efforts and avoids duplication and delivers at the community level. It is at the community level that the fight is most needed and effective. The rate of infection is now zero in many counties for weeks except in Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, and Montserrado Counties where a few cases continue to be reported. This is good news but the best and only result that crowns all efforts is zero cases! One expert on disease outbreaks such as Ebola warns they end slowly and sometime in a bumpy fashion (with a few cases here and there and sometime with a slight upsurge) before the end. We all pray, hope, and believe with all of our hearts and souls that Ebola will end in Africa soon this year.
The thrust of this sixth 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 the need to take full advantage and make the most of the support that is beginning to follow Ebola. In some of our earlier articles on Ebola we made the point that a crisis is an opportunity to change for the better and improve one’s state of being beyond what it was before the crisis. The Ebola outbreak is one of Liberia’s greatest of national challenges with its devastating effect on every aspect of national, communal, institutional, family, and personal life. And yet it is one and at the same time a great opportunity for some good to come out it.
The goodwill of the international community is solidly behind Liberia and the rest of the affected West African countries. I heard the good news yesterday that the UN through WHO and several of its agencies operating in Liberia is beginning to assess with the view of strengthening our health system. But my concern (and even fear) is will we not let another opportunity pass by without positively impacting the life of the whole nation? What should we be thinking and doing to overhaul our national systems in the areas of health, education, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, and economy? The fifth article on the necessity for everyone to get involved observed the following points:
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.
But when Ebola is over what do we do with the support that is at hand? I believe the government has a recovery plan in mind if not already on paper. I suggest such a plan should involve civil society, the religious community and our traditional leadership structure. The best minds and well-meaning should participate from all Liberian society regardless of political affiliation and support.
Corruption must not be allowed into Ebola assistance. Those who will be trusted with managing the resources that will become available have to be trustworthy of putting national interests above personal and inner circles’ interests. Plenty of international aid is required but it must all be locally owned in terms of working alongside experts, capacity building and the ability to manage and improve on whatever is put in place. Let Liberians learn, lead, benefit the whole country and make all of us and our international partners feel proud.