While Ebola continues to spread in Liberia, our staff and family at everyday gandhis have been working tirelessly to fight the disease in whatever ways possible. With the epidemic poised to worsen and the country’s fragile political, economic and healthcare systems on the verge of collapse, our team has taken on new, innovative measures to support local clinics and to enhance self-reliance for food production in anticipation of a potentially threatened food supply.
Clinics in Monrovia, particularly, and throughout the major cities of Liberia are overwhelmed with Ebola patients. Stories of the sick dying at the hospital door while overworked and fearful medical workers must refuse entry have become all too common. What is sometimes forgotten is that many of those left on the streets to suffer and often die are not Ebola patients themselves, but rather ill with other curable conditions, primarily malaria, typhoid and women in childbirth. Although there is no hard data to document these numbers, it is estimated that as many, if not more have died during this crisis from unrelated illnesses.
Patients with other medical emergencies who do make it inside hospitals and treatment centers not only occupy beds and attention focused on Ebola, but are often exposed to the virus themselves. Therefore, after consulting with local clinics and medical personnel, we have begun taking action to stem the tide of non-Ebola patients so that those with Ebola can occupy the few available beds in these treatment centers.
In light of these conditions everyday gandhis staff and the Future Guardians of Peace, under the skillful leadership of eg Youth Coordinator, Mulbah Richards, made a presentation of essential materials to the Faith Clinic in Monrovia, a small neighborhood health care facility that serves thousands of people. This week we supplied them with buckets, soap, chlorine, hand sanitizer, gloves and, most prized of all, an infrared thermometer (which requires no physical contact with the patient). We will be providing similar supplies to neighborhood clinics in Voinjama and in the village of Barkedu, both notorious as the true epicenters of the disease when it first crossed into Liberia.
Next week, our contributions will extend to Tubman City neighborhood clinic, including gloves and sanitation materials for a nurse there who has been providing unprotected emergency healthcare from her home. In the coming days and weeks we will seek out other doctors and nurses who are treating patients from their homes in spite of the government ban on such actions. Our goal with such efforts will be to alleviate the stress on overflowing hospitals and reducing the risk of future exposure to health care professionals.
To accentuate the dire need for such clinics, Mulbah reported most recently that the newest Ebola treatment center opened in Monrovia last Saturday and by Tuesday 120 of 150 beds were full, 49 with Malaria and Typhoid patients. And just today, we received desperate pleas from two more clinics in Monrovia who heard, overnight, of our support for Faith Clinic. One of these clinics, in the Chicken Soup Factory neighborhood – one of Monrovia’s largest and poorest communities- explained to Mulbah that they have repeatedly appealed to the government and to other NGO’s for these kinds of supplies, but have received only one box of gloves in response. Reports like these are proving the healthcare focus is solely on Ebola treatment centers.
These actions will occupy the bulk of our efforts until the number of cases begins to decrease and we are able to safely travel between surrounding communities. When this becomes a possibility, we will hope to continue our awareness programs with those traditional villages in which we have established trusting, working relationships with.
Medical emergencies aside, economic systems are in a similarly precarious situation with looming food shortages on the horizon. Rice and other staple crop prices have risen steadily over the past 2 months with some such as the cassava root increasing as much as 150%. In an effort to aptly respond, the eg team has taken it upon themselves to improve our permaculture site in order to create a more viable, and self-reliant community food source.
Plans include expanding our permaculture reserve and demonstration site so that surrounding communities may come for training and consultation in sustainable agriculture. Most recently, eg staff and volunteers have planted 200 palms along with several local varieties of crops such as bitter ball, eddoes, potatoes, cassava and pineapple. Coupled with the start of a new pig and poultry project, it is our hope that we will be able to grow enough food to feed our entire eg family, comprised of upwards of 150 people and sell any surplus.
Furthermore, our family has chosen a "Peace Tree" near the entrance of the property to be used as a community meeting point to discuss and develop new ideas, exchange stories, rest and reflect. Kamara reports of eg’s plans to build seating around the tree and its large branches. This may certainly become an important space for continued conversation as to the health and progress of our resiliant Voinjama family.
It is in true everyday gandhis fashion that we have identified the small initiatives that might contribute to the larger crisis in a big way. Each new obstacle is a symptom of the larger problem, and we hope our donations to local clinics will help alleviate the spread of disease and that our permaculture site will help to safeguard our community against the rising threat of food insecurity.
The first day of work at the eg demonstration site
Jallah Sawo and Orando Sorko discuss future plans atop freshly planted mulch beds
The eg team surrounds the newly appointed "Peace Tree"
- Jenna Hammerlag, Media Coordinator, everyday gandhis