I am not a morning person. In a typical week, it takes a long shower and a cup or two of coffee before I hit my stride. This was not the case for me on October 30th. I sprung out of bed at 5:00am and was ready to start the day’s mission. We were heading to John Logan Town in Grand Bassa County, Liberia to investigate if there was active transmission of Ebola. John Logan Town, which is not directly accessible by road, is home to 20,000 people. It is locally called the “City in the Jungle”.
I was in Liberia as part of the health promotion team to help interrupt transmission of Ebola through community engagement and education. My role was to provide training on social mobilization to volunteers in John Logan Town.
We got on the road by 5:30 am and met with our colleagues from the Liberian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Concern Worldwide, Global Communities and Ehealth Africa. We were a multi-disciplinary team organized to handle the key areas of the Ebola response including case identification, contact tracing, infection prevention and control, safe burial, and of course education.
It was critical to have all elements of the team in place for the visit to John Logan Town because they had recently had a number of unexplained deaths in the community and had at least one laboratory confirmed case of Ebola in the prior weeks.
The journey to John Logan Town was an arduous one. Although the roads were wide, there were many sections of deep mud which often trapped at least one of our seven vehicles. In true team spirit, our caravan would not progress until all vehicles were freed from the mud. We crossed several handmade bridges of boards and fallen trees. We even had to ford a river to reach our final destination.
In John Logan Town, we did not find evidence of active Ebola cases, but we found a community thirsty for information on Ebola and how to protect themselves and their loved ones. During the 2 hour social mobilization training, we taught a group of 15 men and women, both Christian and Muslim, how to prepare their community for Ebola.
At least an additional 20 people stood and observed the training and hopefully learned more about Ebola in the process.
We discussed the signs and symptoms, ways to prevent spread of Ebola such as notifying town leadership of any sick persons, and what as social mobilizers they should accomplish by raising awareness and further educating the community.
Although there are many aspects of the response, one of the best ways to beat Ebola is to arm people with information about how they can prevent family members and health care workers from exposing themselves to Ebola. As I settled into the SUV for the rugged ride back to the hotel, I pictured the many hopeful faces who we had helped that day. And I realized that the next morning’s shower and coffee would never quite measure up to this day’s wake up call.