USAID broadens effort to correct Ebola misinformation in Liberia

An Ebola response team educates a town about the disease. A social mobilization project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development aims to reach more than 2 million people to correct misinformation about Ebola. Photo by: Morgana Wingard / USAID / CC BY-NC

In the scramble to reach the most remote residents of Ebola-hit Liberia, the U.S. Agency for International Development has signed on Mercy Corps as lead in a consortium of more than 70 other organizations to spread information about the disease to the country’s farthest-flung areas, and to correct misinformation along the way.

The $12 million social mobilization project, called the Ebola Community Action Platform, aims to reach more than 2 million people in all 15 counties of Liberia through the activation of networks of nongovernmental organizations in the country. The platform began with 26 partnerships through USAID, but now comprises more than 70 organizations through the coordination of NGO consortiums that many foresee becoming standard practice in disaster response programs.

The broad reach allows organizations to train and deploy community leaders throughout Liberia in conducting face-to-face outreach, as well as broadcasting information about the disease over local radio.

“While we are focusing our efforts now on helping communities eliminate Ebola, we hope that in the future this platform will evolve into a foundation for greater local-level emergency preparedness,” Penny Anderson, Mercy Corps country director in Liberia, told Devex.

When selecting the founding partners for the program, Anderson explained that organizations were evaluated based on familiarity with local Liberian communities and ability to scale up quickly, among other criteria. Mercy Corps has been working in Liberia since 2002, while Finn Church Aid counts Liberia as one of its main areas of operation.

In a statement about Finn Church Aid’s involvement in the platform, regional representative of West and Central Africa Leena Lindqvist said, “We have been hailed for working with local organizations and provincial health teams. Our sponsors also appreciate the approach.”

The emphasis on outreach and prevention comes just as Liberia — one of the three countries hit hardest by the Ebola epidemic — prepares to reopen schools on Feb. 2.

“We are encouraged to see Ebola cases continue to drop in Liberia, but are aware that there are still critical information gaps when it comes to prevention,” cautioned Anderson. “Now is not the time to be complacent.”

Of the 26 founding partners of ECAP, 20 are local organizations while only six are international NGOs. Many of the those are consortiums, Anderson told Devex, so the platform now deploys the efforts of more than 70 organizations.

What’s the best way for NGOs and development groups to engage Liberians as Ebola cases continue to drop and communities return to normal? Leave your comment below.

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About the author

  • Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a former U.K. correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.