West Point Intensive Ebola Outreach, Awareness & Adaptation Project (Ebola Intensive Project)
West Point, Monrovia, Republic of Liberia
In 2014, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea faced the largest Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in history. One of the most vulnerable areas in Liberia was West Point, a slum community in the capital city of Monrovia, home to approximately 75,000 women, men, and children. In the subsequent weeks after the Ebola crisis escalated, there was evidence that outreach volunteers tasked with educating Monrovians about EVD, were not properly trained in appropriate behavior and physical interaction once in the field. Additionally, while outreach workers were provided with at least a passing understanding of the general symptoms of EVD, they may have lacked the ability to decide when or when not to make physical contact with persons during their outreach work in the field.
Armed with the knowledge of pressing needs in the field, the Ebola Intensive Project identified a medical team for both training and monitoring of outreach workers. The medical team, headed by a physician trained in infectious diseases, included registered nurses, public health practitioners, and social workers. Additionally, the project worked directly with the Ministry of Health’s EVD tracers to ensure proper reporting to the government. The ultimate goals of this initiative were to:
- Educate and build confidence
- Eliminate fear, rumor and misinformation
- Help create new sanitary and behavioral habits that would last beyond the crisis
- Create medically-led awareness training and monitoring teams of 70+ paid Outreach Workers from the local community
In addition, the project would provide a limited number of emergency cash grants to families in urgent need or quarantined due to possible exposure to the EVD. Furthermore, the initiative also provided time-limited post-crisis assistance to survivors and orphaned children returning to their communities after being declared Ebola-free.
Once in the field, the newly trained outreach teams educated citizens on how to prevent contamination and infection, correctly identify specific symptoms, knew when to seek medical assistance and other preventive measures. Donors worked with existing grantee partners and other local organizations to provide a rapid and deep engagement within the West Point Community. Partner organizations included West Point Women For Health and Development, Women Movement for Sustainable Development, and senior staff members of More Than Me Academy.
On May 9, 2015, the World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola- free after 42 days of no new confirmed cases. However, on June 29, 2015, a confirmed case of Ebola was reported in a 17-year-old male who had died in Liberia. Five contacts associated with this case were confirmed to have Ebola, one of whom died. The last two patients were discharged on July 23 after testing negative for Ebola twice. All contacts have now completed their 21-day monitoring period.
West Point, however, remains Ebola-free and members of the project team were recognized for their work in Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year: The Ebola Fighters” piece including the co-designer of the project and Medical Manager, Iris Martor.