Posted by Clara Wagner
In Liberia, life will never be the same. The lost lives will never be forgotten. Much work remains in not just defeating the Ebola virus but making sure it does not return. As the number of Ebola cases gets close to zero, new stories, signs of hope and efforts to rebuild are emerging. Citizens are regrouping, government services are emerging from a standstill and eyes are looking to the future.
USAID is focused on getting to and staying at zero, as well as helping the families impacted by Ebola. USAID programs will get food to communities, help children safely return to school, improve communications systems, get people back to work and re-establish and strengthen health services.
With the help of USAID, Liberia is rebuilding:
USAID’s mission is to support the many families and individuals who have taken risks and opened their hearts and homes to respond to the Ebola outbreak; our work extends past disease control to providing vulnerable families with food to eat, getting children back in school, and helping reinvigorate markets and economies decimated by the Ebola crisis
In this way, we’re supporting new relationships in families. But we’re also supporting the relationship between people and their government. That means improving public services and communication systems to build confidence between a nation and its citizens.
When Ebola struck, the already weak health care systems in West Africa took a major hit. Most normal services were put on the backburner and the region’s health security infrastructure was put to the test. Ebola taught us that an epidemic knows no boundaries. All nations need health care systems that can respond quickly and effectively to prevent the spread of Ebola and other viruses across their borders.
Now, USAID is helping affected countries restore health services and rebuild their health systems. On April 18, at the Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day Concert in Washington, D.C., USAID Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein announced the Agency’s next step: a $126 million commitment to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to re-establish and strengthen their health systems.
By supporting a return to normal health procedures, including immunizations, triage and newborn deliveries, we want to ensure Liberians have access to the care they need. At the same time, by better preparing health care workers, clinics and state infrastructures to identify dangerous animal pathogens before they become serious threats, we hope to create a safer, healthier future — not just for West Africans but for Americans and the entire global community.
When most people think about Ebola, they usually don’t think about food. USAID does. Through the Food for Peace program, food distributions have been made available to those in need. Also, by stimulating local food production, market functions and household livelihoods, vulnerable groups are gaining access to food security.
As families regroup and rebuild, we want to make sure that having food on the table isn’t a concern, hence ensuring that people can follow their quarantines, support their loved ones and focus on the future.
Crises like Ebola aren’t just health sector threats. In fact, when the outbreak made attending school dangerous, classrooms were closed for months — putting children’s education on hold.
However, USAID partnered with the Liberian Government to develop protocols in case of future suspected cases, integrate Ebola social behavior changes into the curriculum, and equip schools with supplies such as chlorine washes and disinfectant kits. As of February, classes are back in session.
Ebola has left much tragedy in its wake. But the call to action that the crisis provoked is well on its way to becoming a triumph. The Ebola response has marked an unprecedented global effort to save lives; the combined and coordinated efforts of the U.S. Government, partner countries, NGOs and the private sector have made this recovery possible while illustrating global coordination at its best.
We are proud to have led the response along with our many partners, and will continue our work until all of Liberia and other West African countries are 100 percent Ebola free.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Clara Wagner is an intern for USAID’s Bureau of Legislative and Public Affairs working on content and public engagement.