IFRC


Liberia: Building back stronger communities after Ebola

Published: 7 July 2015 14:00 CET

Anita Dullard, IFRC

Recovering from an emergency in any context is never as simple as dusting yourself off and returning to life before the disaster. After Ebola, Liberians are not only dusting off trauma and grief, they are also dealing with new and unknown health complications reported by Ebola survivors, stigma and fear, the impact on local economies, loss of jobs and livelihoods, the interruption to education, and shortages of crops and food production. All this on top of the pre-existing challenges in health, education, employment and road networks.

William Jah, Liberia National Red Cross Society field officer for Grand Bassa County, says employment and livelihoods have been hard hit and the Red Cross is working to assist families to meet their immediate needs, while looking to longer term livelihood solutions.

“We’re working on a recovery programme so our peoples’ lives and livelihoods can be restored. The Ebola crisis left this economic burden on people. People were no longer farming because of Ebola, companies closed, foreign mining companies left. Many children are not in school because their parents are not working and they have financial hardship.” 

Foto Joe, an elderly grandmother now looking after her orphaned grandchildren, Diamond and Promise, knows the post-Ebola challenges well.

“When my daughter and her family were sick we had to be in quarantine for 21 days. Someone from the Red Cross came and observed us every day. They bought us food because we couldn’t go out. My daughter died, her husband and their baby son too.

“Now I only have two left in my family. The children are staying with me, but it’s not easy.  I’m old and they have no parents to work and bring them money or food. How can I pay for their school?”

Arthur Whoe, chairman of Foto Joe’s community, says the community is helping Foto and the children where it can, but Ebola has had a huge impact, even for people who did not experience the disease directly.

“Jobs are a problem because everything closed and now everyone is looking for jobs. Our neighbours stigmatize us because they know we had Ebola here, and we already have other problems with crime and gangs.

“It is hard for Foto and the children. We give them small money because the grandmother is on her own, but we don’t have much.”

The Red Cross is now implementing programmes to address food security and livelihoods issues facing communities in Grand Bassa and across Liberia. Red Cross’ recovery programmes include providing assistance to restore agriculture for the forthcoming rainy season and to improve access to cash grants to cover basic needs and restart income generating activities.

William explains that health will also be a key area for recovery in Liberia, “There is an opportunity to build on what we have learned during the Ebola outbreak and continue to build and improve our health care systems and emergency response mechanism so we can deal with Ebola if it comes back, but also the other health concerns we have here like malaria, or cholera in the rainy season.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal of 24.5 million Swiss francs to assist 4.5 million people affected by the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. IFRC’s recovery programme addresses ongoing health complications for Ebola survivors, improved health systems, disaster risk reduction, cross border and disease surveillance, psychosocial support, improved water and sanitation, enhanced livelihoods, and improved early warning and response mechanisms. In total, IFRC has launched 16 Ebola operations in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, targeting 39 million people. For more details on the Red Cross regional Ebola response, visit http://www.ifrcmedia.org/ebola/.




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