Liberia Federation Response to Covid-19

by James Tayler

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On behalf of the Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers and YMCA Liberia – SDI presents the work to fight COVID-19 in Liberia.

Malnutrition and disease means COVID – 19 could be more deadly in Africa than elsewhere in the world. Health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, including in Liberia, have limited capacity to absorb large numbers of patients made sick by the pandemic. The impacts of COVID-19 will have profound human, social, and economic consequences for millions of urban poor in Liberia. The Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS) and the YMCA are working together on mitigation activities in a number of slums across Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia. These include West Point, Clara Town, Cow Field, Blamo Town, and King Peter communities, with activities targeting approximately 170,000 people, as per a recent community profile conducted. Most of these slum communities have limited access to basic water and sanitation services. These conditions, combined with high population densities, are likely to contribute to the person to person contact rates of COVID-19 and result in exponential rates of infection in these cities.

As of mid-May 2020, health authorities in Liberia reported 229 confirmed cases, 22 death, and 123 recovered.  The Ministry of Health’s capacity to provide critical care is still unknown, as severe forms of COVID-19 leads to respiratory failure which requires ventilators, uninterrupted electricity, and oxygen. It is unclear whether Liberia’s government health system has the capacity to provide this level of support, especially for large numbers of people. At the moment, Liberia’s Intensive Care Units (ICU) have limited ventilators, unstable electricity and limited personal protective equipment for health care workers. Because of this limited capacity to absorb the pandemic it is critical that efforts are taken to contain the number of cases and rate of spread of the disease. As such, the overall strategic approach to address Covid-19 will focus on containment and aggressive preventive measures.

In Liberia, as in many countries, government instituted a lockdown in order to contain Covid-19. While this is an effective measure, the impacts of lockdown can be devastating for urban poor communities who rely on daily income for basic needs such as water, electricity and food. Containment and preventive measures require adequate preparation, creativity and innovative ideas in collaboration with these communities to avoid severe impacts to these communities for whom a few days’ lockdown can mean the difference between poverty and starvation.

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The Ministry of Youth and Sports has appointed YMCA on the COVID-19 National Youth Task Force. This puts FOLUPS in a better position to receive first-hand information, training and updates on government and civil society interventions and strategy.  As the supporting NGO to the Federation of Liberia Urban Poor Savers (FOLUPS), YMCA is collaborating with the Ministry of Health, Cities Alliance and LIFT Liberia to provide initial engagement and awareness support through women-led savings groups, community youth advocates, and peer educators groups. In order to expand the current community level engagement as a bottom-up behavior change process, FOLUPS through the YMCA has sought to expand the ongoing awareness and support services to targeted urban slum communities in Monrovia. These efforts include:

  • Collaborate with the Ministry of Health to increase awareness of preventative measures required to contain the spread of COVID-19. This includes identifying and preparing communities for measures to decrease risks, and taking action to protect vulnerable groups, such as older people and those with underlying health conditions;
  • Distribute flyers, hand washing buckets, disinfectants, sanitizers, soap and chlorine at public facilities and major locations;
  • Engage in advocacy activities with government at settlement and city level for the early dissemination of information to affected communities in order to minimize threats of evictions and counterproductive closures of essential informal services during periods of lockdown or protracted national emergency. This includes ensuring that the fundamental rights of affected and target population groups are safeguarded, that they have access to testing and healthcare services, and that they are included in national strategies to receive information and assistance from government. Additionally, COVID-19 awareness activities will aim to prevent, anticipate and address risks of violence, discrimination, marginalization and xenophobia towards people of concern.

YMCA and FOLUPS will work as the coordinating body to engage in the co-development and delivery of the above project activities. Existing collaborating partnerships and working relationships with government officials and community structures will determine the extent to which YMCA will be able to operate freely and effectively. Capacity building will be provided by MOH and YMCA where required, in order to smoothly implement this project activities and transition to the level of community ownership for safety prevention/containment of COVID-19.

Please keep following SDI as we highlight the initiatives of SDI affiliates across Africa, Asia & Latin America in the fight against COVID-19 to support the most vulnerable throughout this pandemic.