MESSENGERS OF PEACE

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For the majority of our youth across the country, vulnerability to the spread of Ebola virus disease is not only real but high. This explains why our learning institutions remain closed and children as well as young people are forced to stay at home. In poor countries like Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the spread of Ebola is rampant, the young population remains at high risk because of the lack of a concrete public health approach in dealing with EVD, the absence of basic social support network, disparity, the lack of investment in human security, youth unemployment, poverty and deeply entrenched stigma and discrimination associated to the fear of EVD. While we understand that Ebola outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern, Messengers of peace (MOP)-Liberia is deeply concerned about China’s position to prevent young participants from Liberia and Sierra Leone from attending the Nanjing Youth Olympic games of 2014. We believe that this action is unfair and discriminatory especially given the levels of intervention put in place by the Government of Liberia (GOL) and its international partners. The action of the International Olympic Committee in not finding the right approach to balancing the safety of others is also concerning. Not taking any chances is not an excuse for prevention of Ebola. We need international solidarity not isolation. On the home front, recent attack by protesters and looters on Ebola surveillance unit in West Point-Monrovia is worrisome as violent reactions to control, preventive and treatment efforts add to the difficulties of our health workers and put our young people in harm’s way. Given the vulnerability of young people, we need to be more proactive than reactive. Violent protests across the country are uncalled for. This is an unprecedented situation and the statistics is changing all the time. We, as young people need to show restraint and should not be reluctant to get involved in preventive and control measures. The biggest tragedy in the spread of EVD is denial, uncertainty, fear and collective inaction. There is an urgent need to break the cycle of violence, fear and distrust. The power to halt the spread of EVD lies within us. MOP-Liberia advocates for the involvement of young people and encourage young people to work in the interest of peace and calm. We are a part of the solution. Youth based organizations can play a vital role to teach young people how to identify the symptoms of EVD and how to use established government facilities for the benefit of all. As the Government work tirelessly to control this epidemic, we should support a comprehensive, educative and collective action to support health services and volunteer programmes. It is very critical to support efforts directed to spread the message that effective hygiene programmes and services can help mitigate the spread of EVD. Young people need to undertake additional precautionary measures of regular health assessment. If the spread of Ebola is to be contained, it will be through the support provided by young people in promoting and institutionalizing hygiene education in selves and communities. The synergy is great and according to the President of Liberia- Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at the three-day of National Fast and Prayer event, ‘…we can turn this crisis into opportunities”. She went to add “An opportunity for reconciliation, an opportunity for healing, an opportunity for helping, an opportunity for humility, and an opportunity to deepen our faith” Until next week when we hope to bring you a piece on Youth Against Ebola, stay safe and healthy. Remember, Peace, above all else, Peace First, May Peace Prevail in Monrovia.

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