Global Communities' Ebola Response

Since March 2014, the Global Communities team in Liberia has been working in Liberia to prevent and treat the spread of Ebola in Liberia, placing an emphasis on women, who are disproportionately affected by Ebola due to their role as family caretakers and health care workers. Working primarily in the three most affected counties in Liberia – Lofa, Nimba and Bong counties – we partnered with local leaders and worked closely with communities to share Ebola prevention messaging that empowered residents to take control of their health by providing them with critical information on the history, signs and symptoms of Ebola, how the virus spreads, and devastating impact of the Ebola outbreak.

In addition to our community outreach and prevention messaging, Global Communities provided logistical and strategic support to burial teams in all 15 counties in Liberia, including Montserrado county, where Liberia's densely populated capital city Monrovia is located. Burial team support included organizing burial teams within each county and providing training to ensure safe management of corpses, equipping teams with vehicles for the transfer of corpses, providing decontamination materials and personal protective gear, as well as providing compensation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 70 percent of Ebola infections have originated from contact with the deceased, underscoring the importance of safe burial.

Furthermore, in collaboration with local government institutions, Global Communities provided contact tracing so that governments and local health institutions could plan for additional outbreaks in their communities. Community engagement and education helped to ensure that the burial teams were welcome in the communities, and that the families were safely involved in the burial process. The teams were able to bury 98 percent of bodies within one day of death, and not single burial team member was infected with Ebola.

In December 2014, Global Communities, in partnership with the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Government of Liberia (GoL) secured land for a safe burial site in Margibi County – about one hour from Monrovia – ensuring that bodies are being buried safely and respectfully. The cemetery is necessary since many Liberians are culturally opposed to cremation and were not disclosing the death of loved ones, or seeking treatment. The cemetery, near the Disco Hill community along the Roberts International Airport highway, includes Muslim and Christian sections, a temporary morgue, administration structures, sufficient areas for parking and an isolated disinfection area.

To prevent the spread of future outbreak, Global Communities is working with residents in rural border communities to create and maintain border surveillance checkpoints. The work that helped pave the way for this outreach was Global Communities’ partnership with USAID and Liberia’s County Health Teams that coordinated Liberia’s Community-Led Total Sanitation program since 2010. Global Communities has been active in Liberia since 2004, implementing development programs focused on peacebuilding, community engagement, economic development, municipal services, youth reintegration, and water and sanitation.

Please read our publication, Stopping Ebola in its Tracks: a Community-Led Response, that describes the process of adaptation, collaboration and partnership which helped the Ebola response to be successful, detailing the challenges along the way that led to further adaptation.

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