On a hot and dry afternoon, I am seated in an ActionAid Liberia vehicle making my way into the depths of Logan Town, a densely populated community in Monrovia, Liberia.
As we drive, I look out the window at the congested community. Run-down and weathered looking homes and shops line the streets, plastered with faded advertisements for everything from food items to medicine to community events. The streets are broken up with potholes and big puddles of muddy water. Open sewage runs on the side of the road, right in front of the stores and homes. Only one drug store is in sight.
A million thoughts are running through my head – most are questions tangled up in a sense of wonder at how the population of this impoverished community can withstand the deadly scourge of Ebola that has befallen the country. From the looks of it, this is a slum-like community where many people live in almost abject poverty. Most people in communities like these struggle to feed themselves daily; I imagine that the added financial burden of buying sanitation materials to protect themselves would be almost impossible to shoulder.
But I also see something that gives me the tiniest bit of hope: posters. Posters, many of them homemade, are pinned up outside homes and businesses carrying awareness messages about the Ebola virus disease. I am encouraged by the efforts of the people to make sure others know about Ebola and how to protect themselves.
I am in Logan Town today with the Project Leader for ActionAid Liberia’s Ebola emergency response efforts and the Head of the Montserrado branch of the Rural Women Association of Liberia, Mrs Korpo Howard. We are here to donate food and sanitation supplies to the Logan group of the Rural Women Association (RWA). ActionAid Liberia has trained members of RWA’s Montserrado branch (of which the Logan group is a member) to carry out Ebola awareness and health promotion in their communities.
These women – all volunteers - are now going from house to house in their communities telling people about Ebola and how they can protect themselves. As they carry out this selfless work, ActionAid is supporting them with the donation of rice and Clorox so that they are empowered to continue.
As we pull up into a small cul-de-sac in Logan, I am reminded (yet again) of why this door-to-door outreach is so necessary. Houses are situated so close to each other that they are touching. Children are play-fighting and tumbling together; the cardinal ‘no touching’ rule nowhere near their minds. At the sight, my heart rate speeds up. I want to scream out “Stop! What are you doing?” but such a reaction would not help. All I can do is stay calm and watch as some of the women ActionAid has trained walk up to a house in the neighborhood.
Outside the home, a woman is cooking in a makeshift kitchen. The women volunteers ask if they could speak with her and when she agrees, they begin to talk to her about the Ebola situation. When they ask her what she knows about protecting her family, she mentions washing her hands. The women, using tips they learned from the Ebola awareness training provided by ActionAid Liberia, begin to discuss the virus, how it is transmitted and how people can protect themselves from infection. The women use the example of the children playing to discuss the transmission of the virus through touching bodily fluids form a sick person and how touching should be minimized to reduce risks. As the women talk, realization dawns on the mother. She calls to her child, telling him to come on home and I, watching from the car, breathe a sigh of relief.
It may seem like a small win but this singular visit by these ActionAid-trained women has given a family a higher chance of evading this deadly virus and has reduced the risk of the disease spreading even further. In an environment where the World Health Organization (WHO) has predicted the death toll to exceed 20,000, every little effort to combat the outbreak helps.
You can help bring an end to Ebola, too. Donate today at www.actionaid.org.uk/ebola.Remember, every little bit helps.
Written by Christal-Dionne Da-Thong, ActionAid Liberia (September 9, 2014)