A high level Team from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Liberia recently paid a one-day field visit to the townships of West Point and Caldwell in Montserrado County.
The visit was intended to gain firsthand experience about the daily work of ‘Active Case Finders’ volunteers, including their achievements and challenges in the field.
Frederick Ampiah, UNDP Ebola Focal Point and Eric Opoku, Leader of UN Volunteers Program, headed the Team. They were accompanied by Sanaka Samarasinha. Mr. Samarasinha is UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus.
He was in Liberia to support UNDP Resident Representative’s Office in strategically positioning the agency to respond in a timely manner, to the national agenda of the government in its fight against Ebola.
During interaction with Active Case Finders, supported by UNDP under the Montserrado Community Based Initiative, as well as community members, Mr. Samarasinha and his team were informed that there was still a level of denial among community members.
The reason, according to the volunteers, was based on the fact that when residents get infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and are taken away to Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), relatives don’t receive feedback on the condition of those Ebola victims.
According to information received from the field, secret burials were still occurring, causing continuous spread of the EVD. Stigmatization of Ebola survivors also continues to be a critical issue that is being faced daily by the Active Case Finders.
Meanwhile, community members are recommending the setting up of community watch teams, in collaboration with the Liberia National Police, to conduct night patrols in order to put a halt to secret burials. It was also recommended that additional Active Case Finders volunteers be mobilized and deployed to new communities.
Responding, Mr. Samarasinha stressed the need to increase awareness, sensitization and monitoring within these hotspot communities, pledging UNDP’s continuous support to the government’s fight against the virus.
“Considering the devastating effect of the Ebola virus compared to the magnitude of work being done and recognizing the needs of communities, it is only prudent that massive education, sensitization and monitoring are escalated to help reduce the rate of infection” said Sanaka.
The Team also initiated discussions with Cellcom on the possibility of providing phones within a call users’ group (CUG), to facilitate communication among volunteers and their supervisors. According to Samarasinha, this will enhance reporting and the flow of information by volunteers.
The UNDP visiting Team also identified the need to enhance coordination of food supply from the World Food Programme (WFP), to quarantine homes that are identified by CBI Active Case Finders. The Team discussed the possibility of collaborating with other agencies to provide adequate support for Ebola survivors and orphans.