March 2, 2015
The fight against the Ebola epidemic in Liberia appears to be moving in the right direction. It’s been 20 days since the last case of Ebola has been recorded. Indeed, the last Ebola patient was released from an Emergency Treatment Unit on Thursday of last week. The countdown to declaring Liberia Ebola-free has begun!
Having said that there is still so very much to do. The entire health system, which was weak prior to and now decimated by Ebola, needs to be rebuilt. One of the reasons for "building back better" the health system is so that Ebola cases & other high infectious diseases can be spotted quickly and mitigation protocols put in place immediately. This is a huge undertaking, but essential, and Save the Children will remain at the forefront of this collective effort. Some of the work Save the Children is engaged in is community-sensitisation designed to not only help communities understand and implement basic practices that will prevent the return of Ebola but also rebuild people’s trust in health services and the health workers themselves.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the entire school system was shut down for a 7 month period. This proved very disruptive to children’s learning. I am very proud of Save the Children’s leadership, in tandem with UNICEF, in the development of national protocols for ensuring that schools are places where children can learn and play without fear of contracting ebola. In addition, Save the Children delivered materials and training to 940 schools (more than 20% of the nation’s schools) over a three week period. However, many children are still out of school due to their inability to afford various costs because of the death of the breadwinner(s) in their families. Save the Children is helping these families so that children can get back to school. Ultimately, Save the Children will work on improving the quality of the learning experience of Liberian school children, many of whom finish school without the necessary knowledge and skills.
Many children lost one or both parents during the epidemic. Estimates are that up to 3,000 children may have been orphaned as a result. The nature of the epidemic was such that in many cases these children were abandoned by their relatives or neighbours due to fear. Save the Children has been at the forefront of training foster parents specifically for the purpose of providing them the skills needed to take care of these orphaned children. Given the stigma associated with Ebola-orphaned children, one must admire the altruism and courage of these foster parents.
Additionally, our team provides psychosocial support to children who have had to deal with the loss of family and friends, and have been through an extremely stressful time. During one single week in just one county, 126 cases of children needing psychosocial support were reported to Save the Children.
The epidemic has disrupted the livelihoods of many, many families. Due to the delay in planting the rice crop, rice yields were quite low resulting in a 20 to 30% increase of this staple crop. In response, Save the Children is developing a program which will reach 5,000 households.
So, whilst it is encouraging that Liberia is on track to get to zero, the effects of Ebola will be long lasting and affect children in many ways. There is much to do but thanks t0 the support of our donors, Save the Children is well positioned to make a huge contribution.
To learn more about our Ebola response, click here.