MESSENGERS OF PEACE

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Gwendolyn Myers, Executive _web.jpg

Major activities, like pre-registration, sourcing school supplies and clothing for the reopening of schools are in top gear as parents and potential students have commenced pre resumption activities. Many parents are financially unprepared for the opening of schools as, according to two new World Bank reports, the socio-economic impacts of the Ebola epidemic are far-reaching and persistent. While we have not completely extinguished Ebola Virus Disease from our communities, we are slowly and surely moving in the right direction. The strategy seems to be working and progress is being made.

Notwithstanding significant progress made in the prevention and control of Ebola, let us be reminded that it’s still a critical time for Ebola response in Liberia. That Ebola Virus must and should be eradicated from our community should be our number one priority is not an overstatement; we need to be forward looking in ensuring an Ebola-free Liberia.

According to Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General, Health Systems and Innovation, “countries need to create resilient integrated systems that can be responsive and proactive to any future threat.

Governments that have flouted their obligations at the onset of the Ebola outbreak, now have the opportunity to put in place sufficient integrated health and education systems to guarantee health and safety of school children. The key to stopping the further spread of Ebola Virus Disease is vigilance and not complacency. The EVD should not only change political attitudes but school curriculum and systems.

It is our view, as peace messengers that the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health work together in preparation of the reopening of schools in Liberia. Preparation should include the training of school teachers, auxiliary workers, food vendors in the prevention and control of EVD. These cadres of teachers should in turn be required to train selected students in the screening, identification and education activities within the school and community environment.

Other forward looking interventions in the fight against Ebola should incorporate standard hygiene kits requirement for schools, provision of thermoflashes and family kits such as food, clothes and hygiene materials for orphans returning to schools. Health clinics and centers (both public and private) should be assigned to schools to deal with emergency situations and school children with Ebola like symptoms. We need to ensure access to reliable health facilities as we look forward to stamping out Ebola from Liberia.

The payment of teachers’ salaries remains a major challenge that should be addressed before schools are opened. Goodwill should be made to ensure the payment of wages to our teachers, who like the health workers and community volunteers, would now be at the forefront of the fight against EVD.

Private partnership and non-governmental sectors’ involvement in the reopening of schools is critical at this point for school children and for households. Forging a partnership between government and private sector to promote health education in schools would be equally critical.

We need to continue community education programme and at the same time intensify media outreach programme. Messengers of Peace, as part of its strategic plan would mobilize its over one thousand volunteer peace messengers in various peace clubs to commence school education programme on Ebola.

Our focus for this year would be on the meaningful engagement of young people in the fight against Ebola. School children at various levels should be encouraged and motivated to tell their stories through articles and at public forums. The purpose of this integrated programme on peacebuilding and school health education programme on Ebola is to build resilience amongst school children and young adults.

We need to know how far have we come and how much more remains to be done.

On the global level, MOP-Liberia takes this opportunity to condemn the killing of 17 people by three gunmen. We express our condolences to the people of the Republic of France and to the families of journalists killed by the terrorists.  We believe in the freedoms of expression and of the press and, most importantly, in peaceful co-existence of mankind. There is nothing that we cannot achieve through dialogue. Killing in the name of provocation is barbaric. Respect for human values and dignity should be the duty of all.

Next week, we will discuss “Unfinished Business”.  Until then, Peace First, Peace above all else, May Peace prevail on earth.

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