One of the participants in New Kru Town reading the materials distributed during the orientation. Photo courtesy of WHO/Christina Banluta.
Community leaders in three counties in Liberia – Montserrado, Margibi, and Lofa – are receiving information sessions on Ebola as part of the effort to contain the disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) is supporting the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to conduct these sessions on the basics of the disease, how it is transmitted and what people can do to help authorities contain the disease. In the orientation sessions, printed materials are distributed and footage is shown on topics such as treatment and holding centers and proper burial of the dead.
Sessions on Ebola are also conducted for religious leaders across the country. At a July 9 session in New Kru Town Monrovia, Ukam Oyene, WHO senior technical adviser, informed 27 community leaders on how to protect their families and communities from the Ebola virus. Training these leaders is important because of the trust and influence that they have in the community. They may be able to convince local populations to change behaviours, for instance in seeking treatment for Ebola or in safe burials of family members, so that Ebola is better contained.
The disease, which causes severe hemorrhaging and has killed about 60 percent of those who were infected, is spread by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected animals or people. Those at high risk of infection are family members and others in close contact with sick people and those who have died, and health workers without proper protective equipment.
Ebola virus disease outbreaks can devastate families and communities, but the infection can be controlled through the use of recommended protective measures in clinics and hospitals, at community gatherings, or at home.
Since March 2014, more than 800 cases of Ebola and more than 500 deaths have been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The outbreak has prompted a major push to contain it by the Ministries of Health, with support from WHO and partners. Not only is it the largest Ebola outbreak to date, but health authorities are concerned because the deadly disease is being transmitted in communities and in health-care settings, and it has appeared in cities as well as rural and border areas.