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08 September 2014

medica mondiale Liberia: Ebola jeopardises previous success

The Liberian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are reporting 1,698 cases of Ebola in Liberia at August 31, 871 people have died and the Ebola virus could be attested in 403 of the corpses. We spoke about the current situation with Caroline Bowah Brown, Country Director of medica mondiale Liberia.

How is Ebola affecting your work?

At the moment our staff in Monrovia are restricted in the extent they can carry out their counselling and public awareness work. The risk of infection means we have to keep our contact with other people to a minimum. What is unsettling me the most is the way Ebola is jeopardising other achievements we have made. Criminals who were sentenced for sexualised violence are being released by judges from overcrowded prisons because of the fear of infection. A state of emergency such as the Ebola crisis also threatens to absorb public spending and reduce the money available for women’s projects. However, women actually need particular support since 75 per cent of the Ebola fatalities were women. The majority of healthcare professionals in the hospitals are women, and women tend to be the ones in families and villages who take care of the sick and dead.

What is the situation for your projects in the south-eastern part of the country, in the River Gee, Grand Gedeh and Sinoe provinces?

Fortunately there have not been many confirmed Ebola cases in those regions so far. But we know how quickly this disease can spread. Our over-stretched healthcare system is one problem. And in combination with the poor condition of our roads this presents a particular challenge. Nevertheless, we still have to do all we can to support the efforts of the government and other organisations – we cannot afford to sit around and wait. So, for example, we are making banners explaining how everyone can help to protect themselves, their family and their community. We are also providing basic protective equipment to healthcare professionals. This helps them to carry on their work without fearing for their own safety.

What is everyday life in Monrovia like for the staff at medica mondiale Liberia?

We frequently hear the sound of sirens from undertakers collecting the Ebola fatalities or ambulances taking sick people to the quarantine stations. The price of food has risen dramatically. In difficult, tense times such as these we have to help each other to stay calm. Some of our staff have already lost friends. We try to console them, we cry together, and in this way we remain strong as a team.

 

Interview with Caroline Bowah Brown, director of medica mondiale Liberia.

Further facts and figures about the ebola crisis