National Volunteers of the National Youth Service Program (NYSP) at the Ministry of Youth and Sports are currently contributing to the national fight against EBOLA in 12 of Liberia’s 15 counties.
The NYSP’s regular activities, which include support to public service delivery in education, health, agriculture, peacebuilding and youth center management, were temporarily suspended to place much needed attention on the national Ebola fight after the closure of schools following the pronouncement of State of Emergency by the President, H.E. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in July of 2014.
As a result of the Ebola crisis, with its devastating consequences affecting the nation and its people, the Ministry of Youth and Sports and its development partners deemed it necessary to shift the National Youth Service Program’s core activities so as to allow youthful national volunteers to engage in community based activities aimed at contributing to the eradication of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), which has claimed thousands of lives in Liberia and other parts of West Africa.
This joint initiative, under a special arrangement between the Ministry of Youth and Sports and its development partners including UNICEF, the Peacebuilding Office (PBO) and the Ministry of Education, kicked off in November, 2014 with the mobilization of about 243 former national volunteers of the fourth and fifth batches of the program, as well as members of the sixth batch, whose training was aborted due to the closure of schools in July.
The National Volunteers are currently deployed in several communities of 12 counties where they are currently rolling out EBOLA prevention messages among community dwellers as part of efforts to combat the deadly EBOLA virus. The NYSP National Volunteers, some of whom are graduates of medical schools, were deployed following a three-day inductive training aimed at broadening their knowledge on the prevention of the EVD, and to provide them basic skills in community entry, crisis management, and psychosocial support.
Reports from the field speak well of how the NVs are fully engaged with their respective assigned communities, doing awareness on EVD prevention measures through a door-to-door approach while delivering messages on stress and fear management, and stigmatization. They are also helping in capacity building of local volunteers as peer educators and at the same time providing support to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and its partners in contact tracing.
Counties where National Volunteers are serving alongside their Program Officers (POs) include Bong, Montserrado, Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Sinoe, Margibi, Gbarpolu, Bomi, Lofa, Cape mount and Grand Bassa. Prior to their deployment, the National Volunteers were issued personal protective gears, including rain suits, rain boots, and hand sensitizers, among other items. They are expected to continue their contribution to the fight against Ebola over a period of four months, commencing the first day of November 2014 to the end of February, 2015. Out of the 243 NVs deployed, 22 of them have taken up assignment in Montserrado, one of several counties highly affected by the EBOLA virus.
UNICEF, a key partner of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, has requested that NVs assigned to mostly affected areas like Montserrado County, carry out contact tracing so as to identify children who lost one or both parents to Ebola.
Speaking recently to NYSP staff and National Volunteers assigned in Montserrado County at the Hope Center in Paynesville, UNICEF Child Protection Coordinator Stener Vogt told the Montserrado-based NVs that UNICEF was counting on them to provide needed pieces of information on orphans and children who are psychologically affected. He said contact tracing is a core activity that helps in stopping the spread of Ebola in Liberia. Mr. Vogt advised the National Volunteers to go out in groups of three and ensure the weekly provision of reports on how many Ebola-affected children they come across in their assigned communities.
National Volunteers on the frontline in various communities around the country are, in addition to their core functions, distributing fliers and posters with Ebola prevention messages.
The National Youth Service Program is an up-scaling and modification of the National Youth Volunteer Service (NYVS) project building on previous peace building and development interventions with the objective of linking youth leadership and national service to an overarching peace building and development strategy.
Funded by the Peace building Fund (PBF-L) and the Government of Liberia with support from UNICEF, the program falls under the reconciliation component of the Liberia Peace building Programme (LPP).