— Leymah Gbowee
On March 27, 2020, the Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa (GPFA) launched its Coronavirus Outreach & Awareness Initiative (COAI). The goal is to prepare communities to combat the spread of the virus. Throughout the first phase of GPFA’s Coronavirus initiative, the Foundation worked with communities and organizations to raise awareness around the existence and prevention of Coronavirus in Liberia. GPFA partnered with radio stations to produce jingles and translated messages about Coronavirus into five local dialects (Kpelle, Mandingo, Bassa, Mano, and Kissi) as a means of disseminating the awareness messages to counties affected by Coronavirus. Additionally, GPFA distributed over 1,000 bumper stickers and sanitizing materials (including hand washing barrels & soap) to 32 communities in Montserrado and Margibi counties.
President Weah recently announced an extension of the stay home order for impacted counties. While these measures are necessary to halt the country’s pandemic, the social and economic impact on vulnerable groups is disproportionately high. Low-income communities are less equipped to prepare for and respond to the Coronavirus. To address this impact, the Foundation has launched the second phase of its Coronavirus initiative with a particular focus on enhancing the capacity of women-led organizations to respond to the threat of Coronavirus in their communities. This will include the provision of mini-grants and training to women-led organizations. Additionally, GPFA has provided emergency feeding to 80 households within Montserrado to help lessen the impact of the stay home order on vulnerable households. Forty-six of the Foundation’s scholarship beneficiaries also received stipends and assorted food items to help their families cope with the impact of the stay home order.
According to GPFA’s Founder & President, Madam Leymah R. Gbowee, “recognizing and addressing socio-economic issues is crucial in the fight against Coronavirus.” She emphasized, “We must take proactive and inclusive measures to support vulnerable communities during this time of crisis. Some of these measures include, but are not limited to, the provision of food supplies and safe drinking water.” Over the period of one week, the Foundation distributed safe drinking water and food supplies to 20 communities in and around Monrovia. With funding support from GT Bank & USAID/Inter News, the foundation will continue to provide direct support and aid to vulnerable and at-risk groups in the greater Monrovia area.
“In Liberia, access to pipe-borne water remains a challenge — it impedes the hand-washing protocol and is the cause of significant movement of people between communities which puts them at risk of contracting the virus,” Madam Gbowee stated. She also stressed that while the wearing of masks is now a mandatory protocol, many cannot afford the cost of reusable masks. As such, the Nobel Laureate emphasized the need for the distribution of locally produced masks amongst the less fortunate. Since the Coronavirus arrived in Liberia in March, the Foundation has distributed over 2,000 masks to market women, bank tellers, motorcyclists, and the general public through its scholarship recipients.
Madam Gbowee also applauded local organizations, youth, and women-led groups for their efforts in the fight to stop the spread of the virus. “It is only through a collective approach that the fight against Coronavirus can be won,” she stated.