A non-governmental organization, New African Research and Development Agency (NARDA) has ended a two-day community engagement and multi-stakeholders dialogue in Gbarnga, Bong County.
The dialogue brought together leaders from six Liberian counties and several Guinean and Sierra Leoneans, who were urged to take ownership of their health programs.
The dialogue attended by 171 participants from selected communities and civil society groups reached a decision to develop what is referred to as a “Book of Proceedings.”
The “Book of Proceedings” recognizes the importance of communities collaboratively working with health practitioners and others to prevent poor health conditions and epidemics.
It also encourages communities to jointly own health centers and assist in erecting structures to meet their health needs.
Furthermore, it proposes the inclusion of traditional healers to give support to the country’s health system.
During the dialogue, community representatives from the six counties shared their experiences on the health crisis they encountered during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. They suggested ways in which they can collaborate to protect themselves from any future outbreak of diseases.
The dialogue held under the theme, “Open Space Conference” also gave participants the opportunity to share with one another health challenges in their respective communities and what can be done in conjunction with health workers to control outbreak and spread of diseases.
NARDA believes that with community engagement through the Open Space, community members will better understand one another and will learn what each group does to overcome health crises in their respective areas.
Participants, according to a release issued by NARDA, recalled that because of the misunderstandings associated with the spread of Ebola, people were afraid to attend to relatives and neighbors who came down with other ailments.
They said most of the deaths that occurred did not involve Ebola, but was a result of victims being abandoned for fear that they had Ebola.
Some also recounted that clinicians could not initially attend to patients for lack of protective gear that would prevent them from contracting the Ebola virus.
They recalled that many people were in denial about the prevalence of Ebola in the region and held on to their traditions such as washing corpses, which caused the spread of the deadly virus.
Besides the Ebola crisis, the discussions also highlighted community cleanliness and control of wastes, which facilitators underscored make environments safe from the outbreak of diseases.
Water pollution and drinking from stream and creeks are also responsible for disease outbreaks, facilitators warned participants.
The NARDA organized dialogue is coming at a time when reports of disease outbreaks are emerging including a new Ebola outbreak in Guinea and measles in Liberia.
Participants in the dialogue came from Grand Cape Mount, Maryland, Margibi, Sinoe, Lofa and Bong counties.
Among the participants were Ebola survivors who have over time complained about stigma from community dwellers.
The dialogue was sponsored by the Health Sector Information Group (SIG), the German Institute for Medical Mission (DIFAM) and the German Development Cooperation (GIZ).
The objective was to deepen and broaden the space for community engagement through dialogue to enhance delivery of health services in communities with integrity.