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Mobilizing in the Heart of the Ebola Outbreak

Published 09/02/2014 by Global Communities

Mobilizing in the Heart of the Ebola Outbreak
The current outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (Ebola) was first detected in March 2014 and has swiftly become the most deadly Ebola outbreak in history, and the first in West Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the number of people affected by the current outbreak could reach 20,000 within the next nine months. The outbreak has been isolated to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, but because of the ease of transmission, the affected population can spike at any moment.
For a decade, Global Communities has invested in the sustainable well-being of some of the most vulnerable communities in Liberia. Global Communities is currently working in Lofa, which has suffered the most reported Ebola cases and fatalities, Nimba and Bong Counties on the USAID-funded Improving Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (IWASH) project. All of the counties that are participating in IWASH are in close proximity to the affected regions of Montserrado County, where the capital city of Monrovia is located, Sierra Leone and Guinea to the west and east.
The IWASH project works in partnership with community members, local partners and local governments to focus on improving communities’ overall health through better water supply systems, sanitation facilities and improved hygiene practices. Read more about the IWASH program here.
Prompted by dramatically increasing humanitarian needs in the communities where we work, USAID’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) recently funded our emergency request for additional support. The four-month Assisting Liberians with Education to Reduce Transmission (ALERT) program is providing intensive and urgent outreach to Lofa, Nimba, and Bong counties, which are at an immediate risk of further Ebola infections. Capitalizing on existing community trust, longstanding relationships, resources and networks, ALERT is engaging with as many communities as possible to quickly share information on proper hygiene practices and preventing transmission. 

ALERT Emergency Operations
Global Communities is coordinating our Ebola prevention messaging and outreach with international and local authorities, like the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to ensure that our messaging and outreach strategies are informed by existing government campaigns and practices, as well as respectful of cultural norms.
Global Communities’ relationship with the affected communities since 2004, and our local and seasoned leaders from the IWASH program, have placed Global Communities in a unique position to quickly mobilize and deliver outreach messages and prevention health practices to an at-risk population of 366,000 people, placing an emphasis on women, who are disproportionately affected by Ebola due to their role as family caretakers and health workers.
ALERT activities include convening county workshops and community meetings with local leaders and stakeholders to increase knowledge, planning, and commitment to Ebola mitigation and prevention. Utilizing their input, we will tailor our Ebola prevention campaign messages to local residents, teaching them proper hygiene practices to prevent transmission. Additionally, by distributing transistor radios to isolated rural communities, we are filling a key gap in the dissemination of Ebola prevention information. Throughout the program we are working closely with local government structures, supporting their response implementation, exchanging information and providing updates that are helping to track the movement of the disease.
Global Communities’ rapid response to the current Ebola outbreak would not have been possible without the support and assistance of our local and international partnerships and our dedicated local staff, reinforcing the importance of the global community collaboration necessary to quickly mobilize when disaster occurs.