Lessons to Learn from the Ebola Outbreak

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According to the World Health Organization, Liberia has the highest number of deaths so far, among the four countries battling the deadly Ebola disease in West Africa. This virus has not only left us traumatized and emotionally shattered but it is also teaching Liberians a lot of lessons. Things many did not pay attention to before the epidemic are now beginning to make sense and mean a whole lot for many Liberians. Liberians themselves are now starting to realize faults from the government as well as ignorance from themselves.

But there is also the positive side of this Epidemic. Like the saying goes; there’s always a disadvantage and an advantage to every situation.

One positive side to this Ebola crisis is that we are now realizing the need to stay healthy and clean at all times. The need to put a halt to all unnecessary life styles like having multiple partners.  Before the Ebola outbreak, those who had multiple sexual partners felt fortified from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) under the hood of condoms. But Ebola has come to set the record straight, giving us the clear choice between fidelity and death.

Many families are now starting to realize the value of having a family and are now to appreciate their families more. There are some women who are even now expressing how their marriages are now happy or happier because many of their husbands are coming home on time.  This started happening even before the curfew!  Families are now spending quality time together and some parents have even gotten in the habit of teaching their kids at home, all of which were rarely done before the epidemic.  

“This Ebola thing got me so used to washing my hands now till every where I pass and see a bucket for washing hands, I stop and wash my hands” says 45 year-old Comfort, a house maid.  “It’s good what this thing has taught us because before we never even cared about washing our hands before we even ate.  Sometimes we would just come from out and put our hands into food others are eating and join them. But now, everywhere you go, you have to wash your hands.” Comfort’s story signals how people are starting to pay more attention to things really didn’t care for before, like that basic hygiene. Today many are more cautious, all in fear of this deadly virus. 

When Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea closed their borders with Liberia at the onset of the Ebola outbreak, market women had nowhere else to go for fresh agricultural produce. To quote someone I know, “Naked pepper, we couldn’t even find!” The lesson here is simple:  we need to be growing our own food.  We import too much of what we eat! And because of this, all of our hard earned foreign exchange is spent on imports from other countries, which strains the value of the Liberian currency.  If Liberia starts to increase its productivity in agriculture especially, two good things would happen.  First we would be able to feed ourselves, especially in times of disaster.  Secondly, in-country production be help improve our economy.

Dr. Timothy D. Nevin, a historian, told the Daily Observer Liberians need to learn what it means to be independent.  “Don't rely on outside forces to save you. Invest in an actual nationwide health care system with money from the iron and timber industries, instead of keeping it in banks overseas.”

Another lesson the Ebola epidemic is teaching us is the need for increased computer literacy toward making online courses apart of our learning system. IT expert, Darren Wilkins stresses the need for Internet learning “Most of our decision makers rejected the idea of online learning and now every Liberian living in Liberia is feeling the impact of those that did not pay attention.  I experienced what many students of universities in Liberia are now experiencing today; closure of schools due to national crisis that is the current Ebola pandemic.  But the difference between what Liberian students experienced today and what I experienced during my time at the university of Liberia is that, there was no such thing as the Internet or online learning at that time.”  If universities and other high schools could develop their own online learning platforms, the closure of schools during a state of emergency may have been much less of a problem and students would have still been able to continue their education. This is something the Government of Liberia has to take a serious consideration on and see this as a lesson learned for the future.

Also voicing out his personal opinion is Fubbi Henries, who believes one lesson we have all learned is that the government of Liberia have fail in insuring that our health facilities are up and running and intact which they have failed to do. And he also believes that the story of not eating bush meat is only intended to preserve our wild animals in the forest “ We’re trying to achieve animal cultivation and personal hygiene, the story of don’t eat bush meat is basically animal conservation. Fubbi also agrees Liberians are now starting to learn personal hygiene which according to him, has not been apart of our life styles for quite some time now. “All that wash your hands and cook your food good is basically personal hygiene there’re trying to teach many of our people.

Arthur Cassell, another IT specialist by profession and a musical artist, says the Ebola epidemic has made him realize that Liberia has zero disaster recovery plans “and I say disaster recovery because this is how we call it in the IT field. But for instance you have to be prepare for something extraordinary, you can’t just expect everyday to be the same, you’ve got to be prepare for something like this,” he says.  “I’m saying this because when the epidemic started, the health workers did not have the slightest idea on what to do”.  

Whether it is re-aligning of our culture of practicing proper hygiene at all times, or the non-existence of National Emergency response plan or disaster management plan or the deliberate denial of a disease epidemic based on ignorance a recipe for disaster and further loss of precious lives, one lesson that many will agree with is that; Ebola is no respecter of a person or even cares about your status; it strikes and kills who ever regardless of your title.

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