Corner of 14th St. & Payne Ave.
Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia
September 23, 2015
Phillip Wesseh, Managing Editor
The Inquirer Newspaper
Dear Mr. Wesseh:
I am writing in response to the article entitled “Global Communities Tightlipped on Over US$32m Ebola Money,” that The Inquirer ran on Tuesday September 22, 2015. Global Communities would like the opportunity to respond by providing factual information that sheds additional light on our activities and funding.
We believe that the published article gives an inaccurate view of our organization, financial practices, and our relationship with the media, and would like the chance to demonstrate that we are not withholding information. On the contrary, we have much that we have shared and wish to continue sharing about our work in partnership with local communities, Traditional Leaders and the Government of Liberia, including much information that we continue to share directly with the Liberia Media Center (LMC).
On August 21, 2014, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) released its first award of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) response to Global Communities of $758,864, to scale-up activities for four months. Known as ALERT (Assisting Liberians with Education to Reduce Transmission), by September 2015, and on its fourth modification, this funding had increased to US$32.6 million, as Global Communities took on a broader series of activities. These included supporting ambulances and burial/disinfection teams in all 15 counties; support via financial incentives to Environmental Health Technicians, General Community Health Volunteers and Traditional Leaders to conduct contact tracing, active case search and community-based disease surveillance in seven counties; and promoting improved hygiene through Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in five border counties.
This CLTS work was pivotal in the fight against EVD; indeed amongst 284 communities that had reached open defecation free (ODF) status by 2014 in previous programming, zero cases of Ebola were recorded (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-weiss/284-communities-at-the-ep_b_8159332.html). Additionally, Global Communities worked with the Government of Liberia (GOL) and Traditional Leaders to open Disco Hill Safe Burial Site, a 25-acre plot in Margibi with space for up to an estimated 5,000 burials, in December 2014 to provide a safe alternative to cremation where loved ones could bury their deceased with dignity and respect. All activities have been carried out with the direct transparent engagement of the GOL, and in particular with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
As of August 31st, 2015, Global Communities has spent US$25,942,825 on the above set of integrated activities. With this funding, Global Communities has supported over 6,000 safe burials in all 15 counties with up to 72 burial teams, 58 disinfection teams, 24 ambulances and more than 170 vehicles to transport burial teams and health workers at the peak of the epidemic. In addition, we have engaged and supported community health workers and leaders in 350 communities across five border counties to attend regular, weekly meetings to discuss border health surveillance and record cross-border traveler movement in ledgers, while establishing more than 25 triage/isolation checkpoints at formal border crossings. More than 200 border communities have been triggered in CLTS under the ALERT program. In total, Global Communities’ ALERT program has trained approximately 25,000 community health workers, the majority of whom are specifically engaged in public health surveillance, and has helped improve health education and hygiene practices of more than 25,000 individuals.
With the remaining US$6,791,075, Global Communities will continue to implement the ALERT program through April 2016, with a reduction in certain activities such as burial teams, CLTS, and border surveillance, and an increase in other activities, as per donor request. Global Communities will continue to support the operation of and transfer to the GOL of Disco Hill Safe Burial site, and will provide training, support and incentives to 125 Environmental Health Technicians to oversee oral swab collection to test dead bodies for Ebola at funeral homes, communities, and health care facilities in all 88 health districts across the country.
Global Communities takes pride in being responsible and effective stewards of our donors’ funds. We have among the tightest financial controls in the NGO community and undergo regular thorough external reviews. We have been a low risk auditee for the past five years and have received an unqualified/unmodified audit opinion during that period. Furthermore, we annually engage with an external audit firm to conduct an independent review or audit for all our international locations to ensure that our field offices are in compliance with our policies and procedures. Annual audits over the last four years of Liberia program have produced no material findings.
Furthermore, the individuals quoted in the article are communications and field program implementation staff who do not oversee overall program finances. Mr. Farshing, Ms. George and Ms. Toe were unable to respond to financial questions as they are not responsible for tracking this information. The author of the piece, Ms. Antoinette Sendolo, did not contact me or our finance staff who would have been happy to answer her questions. Additionally, Ms. Sendolo ensured Mr. Farshing that his quotes were “off the record” and still, she published them without his knowledge or permission.
As a dedicated partner of the GOL for more than 11 years, we are committed to improving the lives of the Liberian people and we believe strongly in transparency, forthrightness and accountability with regard to our programming and financing. Global Communities welcomes the opportunity to work with The Inquirer and its staff to provide the requested information to ensure journalistic integrity and while giving complete and accurate information to the public at large. I look forward to our discussion.
Warner Passanisi, Country Director, Global Communities Liberia