MESSENGERS OF PEACE: Dialogue among Peace Messengers: Community Based Interventions

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We wrote that it takes the commitment of a village to halt the spread of Ebola Virus in our community and this week, we are happy to write on the various community based interventions put in place to place a permanent halt to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Very early into the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, we recognized the critical role of the community as one of the most important settings for health promotion and education.

Messengers of Peace (MOP)-Liberia is happy to note that it is the community based interventions through community care centers built in areas hardest hit by various organizations including but not limited to UNICEF, MSF, Save the Children Fund, bi-lateral agencies and others that are making the difference in the fight against Ebola virus disease. We welcome the support from USA, China and most recently Nigerian medical and health workers as this would also help to deescalate the epidemic.

Communities that have taken Ebola prevention and control matters into their hands have recorded significantly low number of cases and in other communities, the statistics remains at zero.  Whereas, in communities that are yet to fully embrace the outbreak and to take action to avoid infection, we have seen an increase in transmission.

The strategy of helping the poorest and the hardest-to-reach areas has paid overwhelmingly.  According to UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, “reaching the communities that have been left behind does have the effect of increasing resilience”. The reliance on local people in various communities, at the onset of the epidemic, has been heretical but now, it is working.

During our (MOP-Liberia) different community outreach education campaigns conducted in several locations, we noticed the various networks and interventions built to fight Ebola virus disease. In some communities, they established temperature screening and hand washing check points.  In addition to these precautionary measures, young people have served as vigilantes and assisted with contract tracing, distribution of educational materials and hygienic supplies. We are encouraged by the willingness of various community groups including youth to be involved in health actions which affect them. These efforts are impressive.

Even with the high international presence in Liberia, we still need to address the gaps that still exist in certain areas. These include policies and methodology necessary for proper coordination of efforts, mobilization of resources for health promotion in various communities, improvement of our community holding centers, building capacity of local community volunteers with rudimentary training, improve food access to quarantined communities and undertake plans to open our educational institutions.

Schools and higher education institutions provide excellent ways of reaching larger numbers of young people hence our continuous call to open schools. Increased education is crucial to stopping Ebola epidemic.

As we beginning to come to grips with the knowledge that Ebola virus can be conquered, our government and the private sector should now begin to focus on growth that produces jobs, especially for our youth who so far have been sidelined in the scheme of things.

Until next week when we bring to you another piece on dialogue amongst peace messengers: “The Silver lining of Ebola to our Health and Education Systems”, we would like to reiterate our call everyone to take this epidemic very seriously and be part of the drive to stopping Ebola. It is not over until it is over. Safe and health supportive communities are sine-qua-non to the total eradication of Ebola from Liberia.

We look forward to 2015 that is free of Ebola virus disease, of individuals and to communities taking actions for the benefit of all and that Liberians would continue to live in an environment of dignity and peace. Let us show the rest of the world that community based interventions could make a difference in any epidemic.

Peace First, Peace above all and May Peace Prevail on earth.

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