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Global Communities, USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Increase Support for Burial Teams Across Liberia

Published 11/13/2014 by Global Communities

Global Communities, USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Increase Support for Burial Teams Across Liberia
Silver Spring, MD – Global Communities announced today that it has received nearly $10 million more in funding to combat Ebola in Liberia, bringing its amount of funding from the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance to more than $17 million. The added funds will  increase support in all 15 counties of Liberia for more than 50 burial teams and 34 disinfection teams. The additional support extends funding for the Assisting Liberians with Education to Reduce Transmissions (ALERT) program, which provides intensive and rapid outreach to communities at risk of exposure to Ebola, and to communities that already reside in proximity to Ebola-infected individuals.
The new funding signifies the critical importance of safe burial teams, as safely removing highly infectious dead bodies from communities is key to stopping the spread of Ebola. 
ALERT builds on existing and longstanding relationships, resources, networks, and trust built with rural communities in Lofa, Nimba, and Bong counties, where Global Communities continues to  deliver effective, accurate, and timely information to educate individuals, households and community leadership in safe and hygienic methods to reduce the risk of exposure to and contraction of Ebola.
Piet deVries, Chief of Party for Global Communities in Liberia, says ALERT’s ongoing efforts at community education and outreach, and supporting the continuity of safe burial management and contact tracing activities, are some of the most important elements in reducing rapidly expanding rates of infection. “In Lofa County for example, residents got Ebola under control by engaging closely with the community, and by having a good triage system to keep people with Ebola out of general health facilities,” he said. “Keeping themselves safe and taking ownership of their own health is critical.” He added that communities in some areas are also fencing their neighborhoods to prevent infected individuals from entering their communities.
Global Communities is also working closely with tribal elders and other community leaders to ensure that burial teams are responsive to cultural and social norms. One predominantly Muslim community was resistant to having their loved ones handled by non-Muslims, so Global Communities arranged to have a burial team with only Muslims transport bodies from that community. By being flexible and sensitive to different needs, the teams have built support for the efforts around reducing risks and educating people about halting Ebola’s spread.
Global Communities is also delivering cash payments to burial teams in a variety of ways – on foot, by vehicle or, when other modes of transportation are not feasible, even canoes.
The work that helped pave the way for this outreach was Global Communities’ close work with Liberia’s County Health Teams that coordinated  Liberia’s Community-Led Total Sanitation program. With the rapid rise of Ebola rates this past summer, those teams became responsible for burial teams.  Global Communities also brought on expert trainers to ensure that the burial teams are performing well and reducing the risk of spread. It is notable, deVries says, that not one burial team member has contracted Ebola, thus pointing up the safe practices and professionalism of the teams.
deVries says widespread community acceptance of education outreach and the increased support for burial teams are sure signs of the progress made since the outset of this outbreak. “Earlier there was significantly more risk to health care workers and other Liberians, but now there is much more monitoring on the ground to identify who is most at-risk and determine how to make people safer,” he says. “Burials and community engagement are the bedrock of our work in Liberia, and the risk of transmission require this urgent response to halt the spread of Ebola.”