Following the outbreak of Ebola in March 2014 in Liberia, Save the Children, alongside provision of medical support, has also been running a country-wide publicity campaign to raise awareness of the disease: using radio broadcasts and distributing thousands of posters and factsheets. Save the Children, GSK’s global charity partner, worked around the clock to share vital information on the virus.
I arrived in Liberia last October to join other Save the Children team members, who were there to support communities across the country in their fight against this Ebola outbreak. In my role as Humanitarian Information & Communications Officer I was tasked with delivering critical information on the Ebola emergency in Liberia – sharing breaking news and providing supporting information on the impact the disease was having, and the work we were doing to combat it.
Supporting communities in Western Africa
I wrote blogs, case studies, interviews and situation reports detailing the work of all our teams; everything from the situation on the ground and how many people we were helping, to internal issues such as in which areas we needed to recruit more staff, the security situation, and how well our supply lines were working to bring in everything we needed. My reports were sent to Save the Children’s operations room in London, as well as our media, fundraising and advocacy teams who needed to raise money and awareness for the response. Everyone needed to know what was happening and what action was required.
Sharing information about Ebola proved incredibly important. Communities across Liberia wanted to know what the symptoms of the disease were, how to respond, how important it was to isolate themselves and where to seek help. Doing this formed a big part of our response, with our health, child protection and education teams all working hard to make sure communities were well informed.
When I first got to Liberia in October there were about 400 cases of Ebola a week. By the time I left six weeks later it was down to 50. I believe the decline in the prevalence of the disease was partly a result of the country-wide information sharing which helped to stop the spread of infection. I hope we’re reaching the point where we’ve seen the worst of the Ebola crisis, however the international and humanitarian community must continue to provide financial support, technical expertise and equipment in West Africa.
Seeing Save the Children’s health and education teams in the field and visiting healthcare centres and hospitals where doctors calmly went about their work with dignity, reaffirmed to me the value of humanitarian support. Corporations who are able to help fight Ebola must not forget Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. We need to establish an effective healthcare infrastructure in these countries to ensure that if a crisis like this happens again it doesn’t get out of control.
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