As Liberia becomes free of Ebola transmission, I do not only feel fulfilled as an individual but I am very proud of ActionAid's role in helping our nation reach this milestone.
It all started when I was selected to be as the Health and Wellness Champion for my organization. In my capacity had to provide regular update to staff and partners on health situation in the country. In July 2014 ActionAid Liberia got the first funding from IHART and began the response. Initially, the response started with social mobilization and contact tracing, medical supplies for health facilities and provision of food and non-food items and sanitation supplies for quarantined families. By mid-September, the response was extended to six counties and started looking at border issues. At this time we put on our human rights lens and started addressing the intersect between public health crisis and human rights. The team focus was accountability, capacity building for communities and women leadership in emergency preparedness and response. We were concern about access to health care services for women and key population during the crisis. We went beyond donation of supplies looking at how we can support counties and districts health teams to expand sexual reproductive health services for women and key population, capacity building training for state and non-state actors to prioritize women’s rights issues during emergency and helping communities to establish resilience plan. This is what makes our response different from others.
With female leadership in the organization, it was easy to identify and respond to the specific needs of women and children. In late August there was a national call for sanitary napkins and adult pamper for female patients. It was on a holiday and our office was close; female staff had to gather person resources to respond to the call. We were up as early as 5:00am just to do so. Our response including building women’s leadership to lead the change. We worked with female headed organizations and local women from the communities to social mobilization and contact tracing. 78% of community volunteers who led the door to door awareness were female.
Being on the frontline was not an easy thing. Between August and October, I partially quarantined myself from my family. I stopped direct contact with my children. It was a 2014 difficult thing to do; I cloud see the sadness in the faces of my children but I had to do it because I was not sure of the contacts I mad outside. We were out every day visiting quarantined homes and health facilities and ETUs. Responding from a right base approach was a bit difficult. Some times we had to get a bit closer to the contact. This was dangerous for us but we were also concern about giving materials in a dignifying way. This is another point that made our response different from others
From the experience during the outbreak, I believe that if we had functional strengthen systems and structures, particularly health systems, in place in Liberia, the crisis would not have escalated. There is a need for government and NGO partners to focus on strengthening those systems and structures.
We need to shift a bit from depending on others to help us in solving our problems. Liberians have the expertise and power to make the change. It was clear during the outbreak; Liberia (grassroots women and men) led the process. In ActionAid we believe that there is power in people and if you build up that they can lead their own change.
Today, I feel fulfilled as I (as an individual and as a part of ActionAid) was able to significantly contribute to Liberia becoming transmission free.