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IBIS Responds to the Ebola Emergency in West Africa - A Global Call for Action

A multitude of emergencies

The rapidly spreading Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa is an emergency of multiple dimensions. To date, more than 17,000 people have been infected, some 6,000 have died, and many communities still lack the basic information and materials needed to protect themselves. The destruction Ebola is exacting on the society, economy, politics, and development of the affected countries is as severe as the impact Ebola is having on the health of these countries’ citizens. Their governments’ questionable handling of the Ebola crisis has also led to growing distrust among citizens in the affected countries. To keep this global health disaster from turning into a global security crisis, it is an urgent global priority that there be drastically improved communication and transparent decision making around national Ebola response efforts, and the preservation of citizens’ basic human rights must also be an urgent global priority.

Sierra Leone and Liberia, both fragile states when Ebola hit, were on a path to peace and stability following periods of crisis and war. Progress has been made in both countries since peacetime in addressing the governmental abuse of power and misuse of resources that had led to decades of violence, as well as civil and political strife. But gaps in the Ebola response of the affected governments are now testing the tenuous trust built between citizen and State and underlining persistent weaknesses in systems of governance. Both governments have had difficulties managing and reporting on the use of funds and donations for the Ebola response. A lack of proper systems and processes for disseminating information and engaging communities in decision-making has led people to question their governments’ use of the millions of dollars intended to battle Ebola.

Likewise, the provision of basic social services has all but ceased. Public education for millions of school-going children and youth in Sierra Leone and Liberia has come to a standstill, severely jeopardizing the retention of learning achievements and the prospects of a brighter future for the countries’ children and youth. If education services halt indefinitely, children may not return to school at all. This could have serious economic and security implications for West Africa. Democratic reform processes meant to address the underlying problems that led to violent unrest across the two countries are in danger of stalling completely. The decentralization and constitutional review processes in Liberia, for example, were meant to enable citizens to take part in decisions affecting their everyday lives, something that is particularly important in the current context. The Ebola emergency could serve to bring the people in Sierra Leone and Liberia closer to their elected officials. This will, however, require an intensive effort by each government to ensure transparency in their Ebola response efforts and their use of funds to fight the disease.

IBIS calls on...

  • Governments of affected countries to make publicly available and accessible all relevant information on their Ebola response plans and resource utilization, to ensure transparency and accountability, and increase public knowledge of, and trust in, national response efforts
  • The international community to work closely with affected governments to ensure transparent and accountable planning and use of funds in the global and national Ebola response, to allow for public scrutiny and ensure well-targeted interventions
  • ECOWAS to work closely with affected governments to ensure transparent and accountable planning and use of funds in the national Ebola response, to allow for public scrutiny and ensure well-targeted interventions
  • Governments of affected countries and international development partners to acknowledge the unique impact of the Ebola crisis on education and ensure the resumption of quality education services as an urgent and lifesaving element of the emergency response
  • Governments of affected countries, with the support of development partners, to plan for and coordinate quality education services during and after the emergency
  • Governments of affected countries to maintain focus on key democratic reform and development processes, and on international development partners to provide the required technical and financial support
  • Governments of affected countries to ensure that any declared or extended States of Emergency are not used to reverse progress on democratic reform or to curtail basic human rights
  • International development partners to adapt and step up support for the recovery and transition efforts of affected countries following the Ebola crisis, based on new and increased needs
  • Regional and international governments to lift trade and travel restrictions, and to treat humanely and with dignity people travelling from West Africa, including desperately needed health, humanitarian, and development workers

IBIS taking action...

Liberia

In Liberia, IBIS is providing immediate support to the health response by, among other things, supporting social mobilization and community engagement in the Ebola response, and distributing disinfectants and information on preventive measures at the local and national levels. IBIS will also engage with the National Election Commission and Ministry of Health to support the planning of safer elections. To address growing distrust in the Government, increase oversight of the use of emergency response funds, and encourage dialogue between communities and authorities, IBIS is urging the Government to make publicly accessible its national action plan, budget, and expenditures, and is supporting budget tracking efforts of national civil society partners.

Likewise, in order to ensure the resumption of education services as an urgent and lifesaving element of the emergency response, IBIS is working with the Ministry of Education and other education sector partners to assess the unique impact of Ebola on education, and support an evidence-based plan of action for providing coordinated, quality education during and after the Ebola emergency.

Finally, IBIS is urging the Government to make publicly available plans for the resumption of the constitutional review and decentralization processes, both critically important in addressing the very problems that led to Liberia’s 14-year civil war.

Sierra Leone

In Sierra Leone, IBIS is providing health personnel, burial teams and Ebola victims with food, water and care packages and spreading vital information on prevention while increasing access to emergency education efforts such as radio schooling. The response is carried out together with civil society partners and local groups of women, motorcycle taxis and students as well as IBIS’ Alliance2015 partner Concern Worldwide.

Moreover, IBIS is funding Oxfam’s work to deliver lifesaving information to the public, including through radio programmes, distribution of hygiene materials and public visibility of vital messages about infection and treatment. IBIS is also advising the Ministry of Education in the development and implementation of an alternative education plan for students while schools are closed, while also preparing teachers and schools for reopening as soon as it is safe to do so.


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IBIS Responds to the Ebola Emergency in West Africa - A Global Call for Action

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