BRAC Liberia, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social welfare (MOH/SW) with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has completed a weeklong psychosocial counseling workshop for Ebola survivors and orphans in four of the 15 counties.
Those counties are Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, Grand Bassa, Montserrado and Lofa. The exercise brought together hundreds of Ebola survivors and orphans.
The workshop was intended for victims who were affected by the Ebola crisis in the country to share their experiences with the organization, and how to help tackle the growing levels of stigma surrounding the disease.
Alexander Blackie, Psychosocial Consultant to BRAC, told the participants that there is a desperate need for psychosocial support and training in Liberia, where stigmatization has become a serious problem, pushing Ebola survivors and families out of their communities and adding to their pain.
“We need to encourage the acceptance of medically cleared survivors and help communities understand the facts about Ebola transmission. It is important that communities and survivors stand in unity to successfully combat Ebola in the country,” Mr. Blackie stated.
He said that survivors often face stigma, income loss and grief, particularly from surviving friends and family members of those who died from the disease.
Mr. Blackie, who is a Mental Health Clinician, described the situation as “truly troubling,” because, he believes that survivors need food and other support, such as the provision of basic household items, since those who were infected had all their belongings burnt, leaving them in a desperate situation.”
At the same time, Mr. Blackie is encouraging community dwellers to help ensure that survivors are welcomed and not stigmatized.
Montserrado County Health Officer, Fred Amegashi, urged the survivors to think positively and forgo the stigma of Ebola, because the disease affected everyone in the country.
In separate remarks, some of the survivors said that life had changed for them because community dwellers are stigmatizing them to the extent that some marketers refuse to accept money from victims for transactions.
BRAC launched operations in Liberia in 2008, and has since been working for a better future with programs in microfinance, agriculture, poultry and livestock, health and empowerment as well as livelihoods for adolescents.