Solidarity | #WordsAgainstEbola

Publié: 31 mars 2015 14:43 CET

Anita Dullard is an IFRC communications delegate, deployed to Liberia in January 2015 by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Last week, the Red Cross launched a global campaign, Words Against Ebola, to promote knowledge, fight stigma, alleviate fear, and overcome complacency through the sharing of positive words.  

Today is the one year since the Ebola outbreak was officially confirmed in Liberia. Since then more than 4,000 people have died and there have been more than 9,000 cases. I’ve been here a few months. I came because I knew I’d be relatively safe and because I thought I could contribute something, because I wanted to show my solidarity. I had no idea how much I would learn about solidarity from my Liberian colleagues in such a short time.

Every day they go out together to fight Ebola and every day they have each other’s back. They stand in solidarity with each other. They stand in solidarity with their fellow Liberians.

My colleagues in the Red Cross safe and dignified burial teams don’t take risks. The team members buddy up and the buddies watch every aspect of preparation as the team gets into their personal protective gear, to make sure there is no fault or vulnerability to Ebola. In doing so, not one member of the team has contracted Ebola on the job. But while they can guard against infection, it is much harder to protect themselves against the heartbreaking stigma and isolation they now face, labelled by the communities they protect as “Ebola people”. Fear of the virus has created a heartbreaking ostracization for these guys, from their families and communities, from their employers, even their local grocers.

One of my colleagues, Francis, was told by his landlord to leave his job or leave the apartment. He is leaving the apartment. Before the outbreak he was a respected teacher working at two schools. One hails him as a role model. The other has cancelled his contract. Francis has two kids to support in a country which doesn’t provide free education. He stays with the job because, he says, who will do it if he doesn’t?

Solidarity grows solidarity. Amaziah, who is a team leader said to me the other day, “How can I give up when you people come here to help us fight this Ebola? It gives me courage and determination.” He’s seen some shocking things, been threatened verbally and physically when trying to negotiate the removal of dead loved ones from homes and communities. He’s worked a minimum of six days a week since he joined the team last September during the height of the crisis. How can I give up when he is so tireless?

I arrived in Liberia as the Ebola outbreak became contained, and yet some days are still tough and overwhelming. I can’t imagine how Amaziah, Francis and the rest of my Red Cross colleagues have turned up day after day since July last year. When I go into work in the mornings I am always greeted by smiles and waves, “Anita! How’s the job? How de body?” And my favourite, “How you coming on?” How could I not stand with these guys? We are very literally all in this together; there’s not one job more or less important than the other in the Ebola response. Without the safe and dignified burial teams, this virus could not have been contained and who knows what the toll would be now. In a country which had few healthcare professionals before the outbreak and sadly far fewer now because of it, international responders are also critical in providing resources, knowledge and man power.

It took every single ounce of solidarity to get Liberia to where it is now. But this is not an African problem. This is a global concern. The Ebola scare in Australia last October proved that even with our first rate health care infrastructure, with our wealth and knowledge, we were still not prepared for a virus like Ebola, and we were scared. We have to work together with Liberians, Sierra Leoneans and Guineans, to share the knowledge and learning from this crisis, so that wherever we are in the world we can respond and prevent the outrageous toll we’ve seen here.  

You can follow the #WordsAgainstEbola campaign on twitter @IFRCAfrica or Anita's tweets from Liberia @Black_Viv.