Since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Liberia in March 2014, the government and people have found themselves under attack from a strange disease that has been described as “deadlier than the 15 years of civil war.” Liberia is in effect at war with an “enemy” that spares no one in a war whose frontlines can be anywhere including homes, relatives, hospitals, and taxi cabs.
The Sean Devereux Children’s Education and Agriculture Program (SDCEP) – a child/youth development organization based in Bomi and Montserrado Counties – realized that Ebola was spreading faster and affecting many including children and elderly. SDCEP staff and volunteers immediately decided to undertake awareness-raising exercises in communities to inform people about the dangers of the EVD and how it can be prevented.
This was very essential because the virus was spreading among people mainly due to denial, traditional burial rituals, caring for the sick, and other forms of contact.
So a vigorous awareness effort in the Brewerville area was required to change minds and attitude. They organized themselves into a group called the “Sean Devereux Brewerville Anti-Ebola Awareness Team (SDBEAT).” They contacted the Driverseat Initiatives (a local group that supports/trains community people to become drivers of their own initiatives) to train the Sean Devereux team members. Headed by Mrs Thelma Dahn-Debra, this group works with the MoH and comprises people working in the UN, NGO, and private sectors.
The Driverseat Initiatives sent a team of trainers to the Sean Devereux school on August 7th and conducted a three hour intensive training in community entry, sensitization, and information-sharing techniques. They provided posters and flyers and the SDBEAT volunteers were strongly advised to stick to the messages on the posters.
Next day, SDBEAT met and divided themselves into six groups of people assigned in six communities within the Brewerville area. The communities included Jah Tondo, VOA Junction, Perry Town, Blamasee, Old Don Bosco Junction, Baby Ma Junction Right, Baby Ma Junction Left including Kpallah Town. They then adopted the door-to-door visit method. They were amazed at the overwhelming support from the community people including area chiefs/leaders who either volunteered or nominated people to join them.
The SDBEAT thereupon combined efforts with the local people and their Representative of Montserrado County District #17 William Dakel and succeeded in getting an ambulance to rescue five members of one family, including a grandmother, her son, and four grandchildren, to the ELWA isolation center, because they were sick and suspected of having Ebola.
During the Kpallah training session, SDBEAT was informed that a group of people of Duala wanted training assistance. Driverseat Initiatives agreed to come. That training in Duala was held August 15th, and it turned out to be the biggest gathering to date with nearly 200 people signing up, comprising about 80% women. One participant stood up and said: “Ebola is a very smart and clever disease that wants to destroy us all. To do this, Ebola first kills those who are to protect us – the doctors and nurses – before turning on us. We must fight this disease.”
With capacity building support of the Driverseat Initiave, SDBEAT has organized awareness-raising training in Brewerville, Duala (Sarnor Yard), Amadu/Folley Town in Bomi County, Battery Factory in Gardnersville, and Soul Clinic communities. Trained community people have gone from door to door to spread the message.
The SDBEAT sees the fight against Ebola as a big national fight for all Liberians. SDCEP has received financial support from the Sean Devereux Children’s Fund UK and Mrs. Susan Khan and family in USA. The good news is that many people in our target communities are responding well to campaign messages and using the hand washing kits, and spreading the messages, although Ebola is still very much around. SDBEAT says it continues to face poster, flyer, transportation, and financial constraints. Volunteers are up to the task and will continue to collaborate with all partners and government to ensure that Liberia is safe from Ebola.