The war against the dreadful Ebola virus that has killed over a thousand in the country and over two thousand in the Mano River Union basin since its outbreak early this year can only be contained when the chain of transmission is broken.
This what the United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF)and the United States Agency for International Development (USAD) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the National Task Force on Ebola are endeavoring to do—to break secondary transmission-which focuses on the family level.
Against this backdrop, the US government through USAID and UNICEF on yesterday brought into the country thefirst shipment of 9,000 new household protection kits.
The shipment of 9,000 kits marks the first in a series of airlifts that will bring in 50,000 kits for distribution.
Funding for the kits has been provided by the USAID and the US-based Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. The foundation has committed a US$3.6 million matching contribution to UNICEF to support the airlift.
The protective kits, according to authorities, are intended to break secondary transmission at the household level and to ensure that families and communities get the support they need in the fight against the virus.
Speaking at the UNICEF warehouse where the shipment was unveiled, UNICEF Country Representative, Sheldon Yett said that the kits have basic supplies that will ensure that community members stay safe and the chain of transmission is broken.
Each kit contains protective gowns, gloves and masks, as well as soap, chlorine and a sprayer, along with instructions on the use and safe disposal of materials.
He disclosed that UNICEF’s partners, in co-ordination with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and USAID, will distribute the initial 9,000 kits to the five counties with the highest rates of Ebola in the coming weeks. The counties are Montserrado, Lofa, Nimba Bong and Margibi counties.
Mr. Yett said that the kits will be given to families through Ebola care centers due to be established to allow family caregivers to look after Ebola sufferers as safely as possible away from their homes.
They fill a critical gap left by the limited capacity of the country’s dedicated Ebola treatment units, which currently have only a fraction of the beds required.
The proposed Ebola care centers, each with a limited number of beds, will be located primarily near designated healthcare facilities across Liberia.
The centers will offer family caregivers basic training in “no-touch” care, using the protective gear and sanitation materials supplied through the kits, as well as safe disposal of waste items. Kits may also be given to families to disinfect homes after a sick family member has been isolated.
“This epidemic is unprecedented and combating it requires an extraordinary response,” said the UNICEF Liberia Representative.
“The first priority is for more dedicated Ebola treatment facilities and trained staff, but until these are in place, we need to support community efforts to safely care for those who may be infected and cut the transmission cycle of this deadly disease.”
The U.S. Ambassador, Deborah Malac, speaking at the ceremony, re-emphasized that it is critical that the US and Liberian governments and other partners work together to contain the virus that continues to claim more lives in the country and the sub-region.
She said the US government has a plan that is now being consolidated for immediate effectiveness, noting that UNICEF’s initiative is in the right direction in breaking transmission.
“As we work to urgently get those who are infected into safe places for treatment, this airlift of protection kits will help ensure that Ebola Care Centers and communities have the information and tools they need to safely care for those who fall ill,” said Tim Callaghan, USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader.
“We will continue to work alongside our international partners and the governments of the affected countries to coordinate a creative and global effort to stem this historic epidemic.”
Assistant Minister for Preventive Services, Tolbert Nyenswah, lauded UNICEF and the US government for the shipment, which he termed as critical in tackling the disease at the community level.
He said it is the right thing to break secondary infection which is crucial to containing the virus. “The kits are meant to give support to those who are in infected communities,” Minister Nyenswah said.
Meanwhile, under the leadership of the Government of Liberia, UNICEF is supporting a mass social mobilization effort, including deploying teams of traditional communicators to spread prevention messaging, and producing print communications and radio programming to raise public awareness of the outbreak in communities across Liberia.
Another major pillar of UNICEF’s Ebola response is providing psycho-social support and care to children affected by the disease, as well as water and sanitation, chlorine, sprayers and other hygiene items to support infection control.
UNICEF has also distributed 300 metric tons of health supplies and protective gear for health workers.