While the Ebola crisis was at its peak in Liberia, a small group of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) entrepreneurs helped in a significant way by repairing hand pumps in clinics and other health facilities in some of the country’s hardest-hit counties. By restoring access to water — not only for drinking, but also for infection prevention and control — these WASH entrepreneurs ensured that facilities had the resources they needed to promote handwashing and safe hygiene practices that could help combat the spread of the disease.
The ALERT program’s goal was to ensure a maximum level of community preparedness for and responsiveness to exposure to Ebola through effective outreach, education, messaging, and availability of critical health care workers, burial teams, and community-based structures to mitigate risk of greater Ebola transmission. The project accomplished this through integrated programming focused on social mobilization, case detection, case management, disease surveillance, border coordination and support for community-level water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices.
Liberia is no stranger to difficult times, having weathered a devastating Ebola outbreak and now struggling through a slow economic recovery. Lost amid the headlines from these events is the story of Liberia’s quiet public health victories.
Half of Liberia’s 4.5 million people live in the countryside and roughly the same amount practice open defecation. This practice has jeopardized public health by facilitating the spread of diseases that cause diarrhea, Liberia’s sixth leading cause of death and the primary cause of childhood morbidity and mortality.