Archive | August, 2014

Rufus Mandein – Liberia – A Voice From the Field

19 Aug

Below is a blog written by our colleague Rufus N Mandein, Education Manager for Children in Crisis’s partner organisation FAWE-Liberia. Rufus gives a harrowing account of the reality of Ebola in Liberia, the terrible effect it is having on him personally as well as on the teachers and students that FAWE & Children in Crisis work with.

I am speaking to you from Liberia, where fear has gripped everyone – small and big, poor and rich, just everyone, due to this terrible Ebola outbreak.

Rufus giving a presentation during a recent forum of Children in Crisis’s partner organisations.

As the number of cases rises, dead bodies are being reported and found all over the place. Health facilities are all closed due to the serious lack of protective gear for health workers and fear of contracting the virus, so common sicknesses are now killing people and no one can tell whether it is Ebola or other illnesses. The current situation is overwhelming for the government – the situation exposes the weak health system of our government and country, and the leadership challenges the nation is faced with.

A state of emergency has been announced by the President for 90 days. Movement in many places is prevented, but those exact places are not clearly known, so the fear of leaving your home or community is high. Some business people who went to transact their businesses in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount were prevented from returning to their homes and kids without prior warning, blocked from passing by troops at road blocks, so everyone is scared to leave home in case they don’t return. FEAR is the order of the day.

The closure of schools throughout the country is another blow to our already weak educational system. Children are kept home with very little or no play. Kids will now have to either sit home or roam the communities as they wait indefinitely for the reopening of schools. Beneficiaries of our projects (students, teachers, women and young girls who missed out on education) will now have to wait until the situation improves before they can continue their training and acquire the skills and training needed to empower them.

For FAWE as a whole, the current situation poses a great challenge as most of FAWE’s work is educational. The entire educational sector is ordered closed. For FAWE-CIC projects specifically, it is a huge challenge. Rivercess, our project location, is one of the communities with cases reported. The project is deeply concerned about the safety of our teachers and students, our target groups. At this crucial time, the need to see how FAWE (through the project) can be of help to these people is a great concern. We need to reach out to our project communities to create awareness, provide chlorine, soap, sanitizers, and hand washing utensils for the people we work with. Our approach must be holistic and show that we care not only for their educational need, but also their health and physical wellbeing.

The 90-day State of Emergency declared on the 6th of August by the President of Liberia is in full swing and ordinary people have started feeling the pinch. The costs of food, medicine, and transportation have gone very high. Market places are being ordered closed to prevent the spread. But some citizens, who are ordinary marketers selling daily (hand-to-mouth business) have complained of the challenge this poses to them. People who have ‘small money’ can be seen crowding up to buy food in preparation for ‘unknown days’ ahead.

Women going out to fetch food for their families have reported the snatching of their hand bags and purses by common thieves while trying to catch a taxi during late afternoon hours. In an attempt to leave the streets before evening hours for fear of the state of emergency – that appears like a curfew in the country – people are being robbed of their valuables, according to some young ladies I spoke with yesterday.

Some state security forces have misunderstood the State of Emergency and started intimidating and harassing peaceful citizens. Yesterday (August 14, 2014) during late evening hours, central Monrovia was a place in panic with two trucks of state securities barricading the street and firing tear gas in an attempt to effect an arrest of a journalist (publisher of the Chronicle Newspaper) for writing a story critical of government. The standoff lasted for more than three hours causing angry citizens to crowd up challenging security forces. This spread another fear in the population that is already battling the fear from Ebola. In fact the action of the state security caused the breaking of one of the guidelines for preventing the spread of the Ebola virus, which warns against large gathering of people.

In the midst of all this, Ebola continues to strike with more than 32 deaths reported in Monrovia alone in the past two days. These include children, health workers, and adults.

As I write this, I have just been informed that Ebola has hit our family. We just lost our cousin. She was attacked in Kakata and brought to Monrovia to the isolation center, but she died yesterday. We were just informed. At this time we are deeply concerned about her husband and kids. What becomes of them? As we all know, this is a sickness that doesn’t allow people to care for their sick ones. How can we be of support and help during this critical time, to those who still have air to breathe? We are praying for the kids and father.

We are trying to take the necessary precautions to keep our families and ourselves safe. The situation is getting worse by the day and everyone is so concerned, but we are trusting God to keep us safe. Our country is in great need at this very challenging time, but in it all we will join forces to create the awareness and fight this attacker.