Tackling Ebola: Give Autonomy to Local African Communities, Says International Rescue Committee

  • by Valentina Ieri (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

Titled 'Risking Repetition: Are We Ignoring Ebola's Lessons', the report highlighted inefficiencies of the international response to the crisis. It was presented at a high level conference on Ebola, held at the European Commission in Brussels.

IRC president and CEO David Miliband remarked: "The lesson of this crisis is that if you lose the trust of the community then you can't run an effective health system. This is the warning we have to take on board to avoid the risk of repetition."

Local leadership, effective salaries for workers, and infection prevention were three main aspects which require stronger implementation in order to eradicate the disease and work out a recovery process for damaged countries, according to the report.

IRC said that self-imposed quarantines like the one they organised in Lofa County, in partnership with community leaders, played a significant role in stopping the epidemic, with 150 000 local residents screened and kept safe by community workers. Enforced quarantines, however, had had the adverse effect of fuelling the epidemic.

"The epidemic has been beaten back by local community education, mobilisation and organisation led by trusted figures in the diverse and proud communities across the countries concerned, through community-led identification, isolation, safe burial and surveillance supervisors," said the IRC president.

"The key to the turnaround has been the degree of community credibility rather than the number of professional qualifications," he added.

When last year's Ebola outbreak began, nurses and doctors were striking in Liberia and Sierra Leone to protest against unpaid work. The report advised that through donor help, local governments must guarantee regular pay to workers, and provide adequate equipment, so that public trust can be maintained.

Over 500 healthcare workers are reported to have died during the epidemic. IRC focused on extending disease prevention and training courses not only in health institutions, but also in schools and workplaces.

The organisation's humanitarian action is directed to help populations that live in damaged and conflicted areas. It assists the Liberian and Sierra Leonean governments in working to eradicate Ebola, and to actively participate in restructuring their health system.

"Our experience tells us that we need to turn upside down the way response to epidemics like Ebola has been conceived. Instead of trying to develop solutions from outside, and getting communities on board, we need to proceed in reverse order." Miliband said.

Follow Valentina Ieri on Twitter @Valeieri

Edited by Roger Hamilton-Martin

© Inter Press Service (2015) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service