Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia Staff
COVID-19 is a killer disease which is thought to be spread from person to person mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, and eats. These droplets can land in the mouth or nose of nearby people or can be inhaled into the lungs. Research has shown that the spread is more likely when people are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). It is also possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
In Liberia, the statistics show that as of January 3, 2021, Liberia has recorded 1,779 cases, 83 deaths, and 1,406 recoveries. Though the cases in Liberia are not as alarming as compared to many countries in the world, the need to act responsibly to contain the spread of the virus is crucial, as the virus could escalate if people are not careful. The eradication of the virus has presented a serious challenge to the Liberian government and to the world at large; health experts have predicted that the virus is expected to live among the human race for a long time. The Liberian government has reverted to mitigation strategies by relaxing most of the rigorous restrictions imposed earlier. It continues to encourage its citizens to be responsible and play by the preventive rules.
What the residents thought about COVID-19 when it was first announced in Liberia
When the virus was announced to be in Liberia, many residents, including those in Weasua, did not think it was real because they didn`t see people get sick with the virus like they had during the Ebola pandemic in 2014 – 2016. Many other people acknowledged the reality of the virus, but concluded that it would only affect white people and not black people. They said that black people`s genes were strong and could resist the virus. A few Liberians, including some people in Weasua, argued that the virus must be in Liberia, owing to the fact that the virus spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The government effected a stay-at-home order and restricted public gathering throughout the country, yet people were seen in crowded market places without wearing masks. Liberians would watch television and listen to world news, and see that in spite of how people in other parts of the world were being careful and following the general health protocols, millions were still getting sick and dying. They compared that situation to the fact that in Liberia, the case and death counts were low, in spite of the people’s irresponsible behavior towards the virus. This caused the people to doubt the presence of the virus in Liberia even more.
What the residents think about COVID-19 now and how they are responding
Now, the majority of Liberians have changed their mentality towards the virus and believe that it is real and present in Liberia. This is the result of continued efforts by the government through the Ministry of Health, NGOs, CBOs, and other humanitarian organizations to raise awareness about the reality of COVID-19, the danger it poses to the human race, and preventive measures.
How are the residents using the Diamonds for Peace donated sanitary materials?
As a means of contributing to the fight against COVID-19, Diamonds for Peace (DFP) reached out and donated 89 faucet buckets, 89 dozen bars of soap, and 246 locally-made masks to 73 families in Weasua and 16 satellite villages connected to Weasua in August 2020.
DFP’s Liberian coordinator monitored and found that the majority of the families that received the faucet buckets are using them properly. On a daily basis, they place the faucet buckets in strategic locations (either in the front or the back of their houses and at the various community hand pumps), for residents to access and keep washing their hands regularly. When DFP supplied the buckets, each family received a dozen bars of soap; this soap was used up long ago, but they are now making more of it themselves in order to maintain a regular practice of hand-washing. The community may not have recorded any cases of COVID-19, but many of the residents are not taking this for granted; they continue to wash their hands regularly.
During the DFP coordinator’s visit to the community in December of 2020, he witnessed an instance where a caretaker of the community hand pumps reported one of the community residents to the town chief for refusing to wash his hands before accessing the pump. The man who refused to wash his hands was warned not to repeat this action or he would be charged a fine the next time.
People need to be aware that hand-washing is not only for preventing COVID-19 or other pandemics during outbreaks; it should be a normal healthy daily life practice to prevent many other diseases like typhoid, diarrhea, flu, etc.
Though health experts have predicted that COVID-19 is going to be around for a long time, it is believed that it will one day become history just like other pandemics. From observation and experience, many people in the Liberian society are not accustomed to regularly washing their hands; they only do so when they really have to. During the outbreak of the Ebola virus pandemic, people were forced to wash their hands often in order to stay alive; but as soon as the virus was eradicated from the country, they reverted to their previous lifestyle of not washing their hands on a regular basis. It is the same with COVID-19; in many Liberian communities, people are no longer washing their hands as they did during the height of the pandemic. Some people have started using their faucet buckets for other purposes (bathing, cooking, etc). However, it is a bit different in Weasua, as the residents continue to use the DFPL`s donated faucet buckets for hand washing.
Front Photo:The children in Weasua wash their hands to prevent COVID-19 and other diseases. © Diamonds for Peace