Ebola response diaries: Isaac

Liberia

January 2, 2015

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  • Isaac (in red cap) models how to properly prepare a handwashing station. Our team uses this practice at the office and similar stations are commonly seen at local businesses. Photo: Mercy Corps

Our team in Liberia is working hard to equip two million people with the information they need to protect themselves from Ebola. These team members are more than response workers — they are members of the same communities they're helping.

Forty-two of our 47 staff on the ground are Liberian. Their courageous and determined efforts to end this outbreak and help their country recover are at the heart of our response.

As the team's Senior Psychosocial and Partners Officer, Isaac wants to empower young people to protect themselves and help their communities fight Ebola. His work is critical to making sure our Ebola response, including the public health education campaign, efficiently and effectively reaches as many people as possible.

Initially I thought that the news about Ebola was not true because it had never been diagnosed in the country before. Most of the population didn’t believe the government or the ministry of health because of a lack of trust. There was a lot of different information about Ebola initially until social mobilization and awareness activities started.

I found out about the Ebola outbreak through newspapers, radio broadcast, on television and the internet. Mercy Corps management made it their duty to update staff on a regular basis to keep us informed on issues relating to Ebola in and around the country.

The outbreak has changed my life in so many ways. I don’t socialize, greet or visit family members and friends the way I used to. We have adapted to many preventive measures that were not practiced before the Ebola outbreak. I no longer go to entertainment centers, beaches, or video clubs — I had to stop playing football in groups with my friends.

The disease has affected me personally, too. Finances in my household are more difficult due to the fact that I’m the only person earning income. My wife lost her job because of the crisis. She used to work for a local NGO, but now, because she is not working, she feels reliant on me for almost everything. She is looking for a new job now that the Ebola outbreak is slowly improving.

I have stopped visiting medical centers because they are no longer a safe place to seek treatment for illnesses other than Ebola. At the beginning of the outbreak, any visits were highly discouraged, which caused some hard feelings amongst family members and friends. Now, with some improvement in the fight against the disease, visitations are not still encouraged but when there are very important situations, people do allow visitors.

In my community, people have become their own security by expressing concerns about every sick person and talking to community leaders about the situation. Every house in my community has a handwashing station.

Everyone in my community is practicing Ebola preventive measures at their homes to protect themselves and their families from contacting the virus. Parents are trying their best to keep their children at home and to limit their interactions with other children in the community. Community leaders continue to talk to family members and other people in the community about Ebola and how to prevent and stop the spread of the virus.

The economy of our country is really badly affected by this outbreak. Parents cannot afford standard meals for their families anymore because the prices of essential commodities are sky high. Rice is our staple food in Liberia — before the Ebola crisis we were buying a 50kg bag of rice for 32 USD or a 25kg bag of rice for 16 USD. But now, a 50kg bag of rice is now 45 USD and a 25kg bag is now 20 USD.

To stop the spread of Ebola, everyone needs to continue to practice the preventative measures recommended by the government and its partners. In my community, I reinforce these preventive health messages by talking to community members, distributing posters, and encouraging people to seek early treatment if they experience any signs or symptoms of the Ebola virus.

At Mercy Corps, I work on the Emergency Community Action Platform (E-CAP) team, which is implementing a social mobilization campaign at the community level that helps people learn how to protect themselves from the disease. The community leaders we work with come from diverse backgrounds including religious leaders, non-religious leaders, elders, youth and local authorities.

I do this work and enjoy it, despite the danger, because I have a passion for working with young people. I get to work with young people from diverse backgrounds to help them understand the issues that affect their well-being. Then I can work with the young people and their community’s leaders to design and programs that will protect them.

I’m motivated to do this work because young people in Liberia are in a cycle of vulnerability caused by inadequate family support, failure of government to empower young Liberians and failure of some young people in Liberia to make the most of existing opportunities. I want to help them improve their lives and provide sustainable solutions through Mercy Corps programs to empower them.

How you can help

Ebola can be beat. You can help people survive this outbreak and give communities the tools needed to contain the disease. Send emergency relief and long-term solutions to families struggling with Ebola and other hardships around the world. Give now ▸