AJWS’s Response to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) Epidemic in West Africa
20 October 2014
The current epidemic of Ebola virus disease (EVD) is far larger than all previous epidemics combined. As of late October 2014, nearly 9,000 cases have been identified in five West African countries, with more than 50 percent of those cases in Liberia. The scale of the epidemic in Liberia, which shows no signs of abating, has led to a large-scale breakdown of health care systems. It has greatly affected the socioeconomic well-being of the majority of the Liberian population, and has especially affected marginalized and underserved communities. Due to AJWS’s longstanding work in Liberia and the West Africa region and our niche in grassroots grantmaking, we have been working in partnership with local organizations to respond to this epidemic.
There is an incredible amount of misinformation around Ebola, as it is not a disease that West Africans are typically familiar with. There is a huge mental burden of the disease and many people are filled with terror, as the primary messages have been that “Ebola kills” or that it is untreatable. Rather, what is needed is evidence-based and sensitive messaging to inform the public about the logistics of treatment, care and testing. There is a need to change the story from “Ebola kills” to the fact that symptoms of Ebola are treatable, and the earlier one gets treatment, the higher chances are of surviving.
In light of this dire situation, AJWS has responded swiftly and responsively. Our partners are working in almost all counties of Liberia, with a focus on the most heavily burdened areas. AJWS has raised over $200,000 thus far, and has disbursed grants to partners who are primarily working on community awareness raising and the provision of sanitation materials. Our partners build on existing trust, relationships and organizing structures within the communities, in order to effectively raise awareness about Ebola symptoms, prevention, care and treatment. Our partners are working with County Health Teams and Ebola Task Forces to ensure coordination with local efforts as well as local religious and political leaders who are able to influence community attitudes. Volunteers are being trained and equipped with protective gear as well as hygiene materials, to ensure that door-to-door and community outreach is done safely. All information being used and disseminated is Ministry of Health approved.
Finally, as AJWS works in neighboring Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire, we are exploring ways to raise awareness about Ebola and to proactively stop any potential outbreaks in those countries.
We hope to raise additional funds to:
- Provide additional grants to existing Ebola fund grantees, as most disbursed grants are small and are only for 3-4 months
- Grant to new community-based grantees to reach additional parts of Liberia
- Grant to larger institutions such as the Civil Society Taskforce and an international NGO that is working on a medical response to the Ebola epidemic
- Engage organizations in Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire to do awareness raising and prevention work, and to proactively preempt any possible cross-border outbreaks
Liberia Grantees Response (as of 20 Oct 2014):
All grantees are using Ministry of Health (MoH) approved materials and are working with county health teams and Ebola task forces in their respective regions to improve coordination and collaboration with other entities.
- MARWOPNET is using its radio station to spread messages about Ebola prevention and referral pathways in northern Liberia
- The Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa is engaging community-based organizations and rural media institutions to carry out a sensitization campaign against the spread of EVD, including distribution of hygiene materials
- SEWODA is training staff and peace committee members in Ebola prevention and response and conducting community outreach in Maryland, River Gee, and Grand Kru counties
- GRASS is proactively disseminating information about Ebola virus among communities in Grand Bassa County
- BAWODA is focusing on women and children as the most at risk in Grand Bassa County, and is training and equipping volunteers who will conduct community sensitization and is using religious groups and institutions such as Sunday schools to spread prevention messaging
- WANEP is conducting an awareness campaign around Ebola prevention and treatment in Margibi, Lofa, and Bong counties, and is training and equipping volunteers who will target over 3,000 households with information and hygiene promotion materials
- FCI is conducting an awareness campaign and is training staff and volunteers who will in turn target about 7,000 households and public institutions in Rivercess County with information and hygiene promotion materials
- Imani House International is renovating part of their clinic to be able to act as an Ebola quarantine and triage center, and is continuing to provide much needed primary care services in light of the collapse of health care systems in and around Brewerville, an underserved community near Monrovia
- DEN-L is conducting an awareness raising campaign with Ebola-related information and improving community coordination and response, targeting 11,000 households in Bong County, Liberia, targeting women as well as other CSOs and community surveillance teams for engagement
- COPDA is engaging tribal and religious leaders on Ebola prevention and awareness, training and equipping staff and volunteers to conduct a door-to-door sensitization campaign targeting 6,000 individuals, and is providing psychosocial support and counseling to survivors of Ebola and their families, in Nimba County.
 WHO Ebola Response Team. (23 Sep 2014). Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa – the First 9 Months of the Epidemic and Forward Projections. Accessed from: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1411100?query=featured_home&#t=article
 CDC. (12 Oct 2014). 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. Accessed from: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/index.html