Liberian Stars against Ebola Stigma

James Salinsa Debbah, Kervin Sebwe and Oliver M_web.jpg

In its most demanding posture, the Liberia Football Association has put up a team of former Liberian soccer stars to encourage the smooth reintegration of Liberians who survived the Ebola Virus Disease.

Reports from the communities across the country speak of residents’ fear of being infected from those who have survived the virus and have been cleared to return to their communities.

In many cases, they are not allowed to draw water from community wells and hand-pumps and their presence is resented by those who know their stories.

And in line with its duty to ensure that Liberian communities are safe, the Liberia Football Association has put together former Liberian soccer stars, including James Salinsa Debbah, popularly known as the ‘miracle man,’ Kervin and his brother Dionysius Sebwe, Oliver Makor, Christopher Wreh as well as additional former players who have been appointed coaches to handle the various national teams.

While there is abundant evidence that Ebola infections have reduced tremendously in the country, the Liberia Football Association and authorities, including the Atlanta based Center for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), are saying that Liberians should not take the situation for granted and we must continue measures that have helped for the impressive reduction of the virus.

The Liberia Football Association’s slogan: ‘Stop the Stigma against EBOLA Survivors and Ebola is real’ brings the message closer to home. This is true because all communities have experienced the terror of Ebola and hence we must be on our guard to ensure that it is defeated.

Recently, international footballers, including Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona’s Neymar Jr., Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Bayern Munich’s Phillip Lahm joined together as the World X1 against Ebola.

Quite recently, three-time African player of the year Yaya Toure joined actor Idris Elba and a host of international footballers to launch a public awareness campaign to help halt West Africa's Ebola epidemic and recognize the health workers fighting the deadly disease.

Now, it is the turn of former Liberian stars and their message, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, is urging Liberians to fight against stigma unfortunately associated with Ebola survivors and have been certified by medical authorities.

Another of their message is that ‘Ebola is still around’ and therefore its presence should not be minimized.

In simple terms, the LFA, through our former soccer stars are saying, “We must make sure that we stop stigmatizing survivors and help them to reintegrate in their communities.”

On record the LFA is one of the first institutions to take action against the disease, as the Ebola virus spread, by suspending all football activities, sending the strong message about the severity of the virus. The LFA sadly lost an employee in the process.

So as our former stars begin to sound their messages using the various media, they would be hoping that Liberian communities would continue to abide by rules and measures till Ebola Virus Disease is defeated and removed from Liberia.



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