Dialogue among Peace Messengers: Ebola not a precursor to Violence

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We have over the past weeks been witnesses to Ebola related demonstrations, arson and violence in Lofa and other parts of Liberia, including Monrovia. Since the outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic in March 2014, we have also saw the initial phase of denial, lackadaisical and slow response, on both the part of government and the governed, to preventive and control measures.

Public awareness initiatives to stop the spread of Ebola have been ignored until last week when the Government of Liberia took very bold and measured steps to control the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

After 11 years of relative peace, the Ebola epidemic should NOT be a precursor to conflict and violence. Rather, it should be a time for reflection, solidarity and call for directed action at preventing, providing palliative care and control of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

It is time to take a page and learn from other countries like DRC-1976, Sudan-1979, La Côte d’Ivoire-1994, Gabon-1996 and recently Uganda (2011) that have in the past been successful in curbing the spread of EVD.

Ebola was introduced into our population through close contact with the blood and other secretions or bodily fluids of infected family members.

The imminent possibilities of containing the EVD are real and require not only the active participation of all but the cooperation of the public in following basic and fundamental safety measures and unusual preventive and control measures.

The challenges ahead requires us as peace messengers to alleviate fears, dispel rumors and abate distrust, stigmatization, discrimination and current low confidence in our health care system. The discipline of not touching family members and friends infected with EVD has not penetrated. Contact tracing of exposure persons Neither is the necessary control measure of cremating cadaver of infected individual going to be well received in our culture.

Young people are simply frustrated and stressed about what to do, who to turn to, where to go and when EVD will be eradicated or contained. What we do rightly and what we fail to do will be critical in the weeks ahead. 

In the absence of any known treatment and preventable vaccine for EVD, we need to take the outbreak of EVD seriously and support on-going efforts. There is need for actions in all fields. More needs to be done at the family, community and national levels.

Every one of us has a role to play and a responsibility to protect each other. The GOL needs to provide enabling environment for prevention and control of EVD through reopening of closed Health care facilities, increasing access to health care, sharing reliable information on Ebola, provision of medical as well as sanitary supplies in the short term and in the long term, recruitment of additional health workers and improving public health institutions across the country.

We regret the loss of lives of our highly trained health workers and there is need to show compassion to our nurses and other health workers who are at the forefront of the epidemic.

We applaud preventive efforts put in place to increase access to hand washing facilities and government declaration to close most public institutions, restrict public gatherings.

MOP-Liberia is also pleased to note that different nations and bodies like the World Health Organizations-(WHO), World Bank-(WB) and African Development Bank (ADB) are coming together to take action.

As always, the basic practice of good hand hygiene techniques at all times would help, reporting self and others with symptoms of Ebola to appropriate health authorities are necessary precautions to protect you, family and friends. As civil societies, we need to raise the current level of knowledge on EVD.

MOP-Liberia will continue to assist in the consolidation of peace through dialogue and reconciliation by spreading positive messages of peace and the need for cooperation in the fight against EVD. We will continue to promote the spirit of volunteerism amongst youths and follow-up on catalytic activities that would help control the spread of Ebola.

Your priority as a young person is to remain healthy and safe. Remember, Ebola may be rare and deadly, it is preventable and it is easy to protect ourselves from getting it.

It is better to be safe than sorry. Safety on EVD starts with you and we will encourage you to a part of the solution. “Take care of yourself. Good Health is everyone’s major source of wealth”-Anonymous.

Until next week, Peace first, may peace prevail.

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