A high level Team from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Liberia, has conducted a one-day field visit to the townships of West Point and Caldwell in Montserrado County. The visit was part of efforts aimed at getting firsthand experience about the daily work of Active Case Finders’ volunteers, including their achievements and challenges in the field.
The Team was headed by Frederick Ampiah, UNDP Ebola Focal Point and Eric Opoku, Head of UN Volunteers Program. They were accompanied by Sanaka Samarasinha. Mr. Samarasinha is UNDP Resident Representative in Belarus. He was in Liberia to support UNDP Resident Representative Office in strategically positioning the Agency to respond in a timely manner, to the national agenda of the government in its fight against Ebola.
During interaction with Active Case Finders, being supported by UNDP under the Montserrado Community Based Initiative, as well as community members, Mr. Samarasinha and Team were informed that there was still denial among community members. The reason, according to the volunteers, was based on the fact that when residents get infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and taken away to Ebola Treatment Centers (ETUs), relatives don’t receive feedback on the condition of those Ebola victims.
According to information also received from the field, secret burials were still occurring, causing continuous spread of the EVD, while stigmatization of Ebola survivors continue to be a critical issue that was being faced by the Active Case Finders daily.
Meanwhile, community members are recommending the setting up of community watch teams in collaboration with the Liberia National Police to conduct night patrols in order to put a halt to secret burials. It was also recommended that additional Active Case Finders’ volunteers be mobilized and deplored to new communities.
Responding, Mr. Samarasinha stressed the need to increase awareness, sensitization and monitoring within these hotspot communities, pledging UNDP’s continuous support to the government’s fight against the virus.
“Considering the devastating effect the Ebola situation vis-a vis the magnitude of work being done and recognizing the needs of communities, it is only prudent that massive education, sensitization and monitoring are escalated to help reduce the rate of infection” intimated Sanaka.
The Team also initiated discussions with Cellcom for the possibility of providing phones within a call users group (CUG) to facilitate communication among volunteers and their supervisors. According to Samarasinha, this will enhance reporting and the flow of information by volunteers.
The UNDP visiting Team also identified the need to enhance coordination of food supply from the World Food Programme (WFP) to quarantined homes that are identified by CBI Active Case Finders and spoke of the possibility of exploring programming support in collaboration with other agencies for survivors and orphans.