By Togba-Nah Tipoteh, PhD
In March this year, the organization known as Servants of Africa Fighting Epidemics (SAFE) made its first Progress Report for 2020. In the Report delivered by Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, Chairperson of SAFE, it is shown that the focus is using available human, financial and material resources to provide knowledge in ways that can raise mass awareness to motivate people in the communities throughout Liberia to take ownership of the anti-epidemic process. During the Ebola crisis, when SAFE was under the banner of Servants of Africa Fighting Ebola (SAFE), this same focus was used to defeat Ebola.
With the Ebola outbreak behind us, we are faced with the re-emergence of Lassa Fever in Liberia and the emergence of the Corona Virus from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The revived SAFE was launched on March 12, 2020, the birthday of the late SAFE Co-Founder, Dr. Mary Nema Brownell. As the late Sheikh Kafumba Konneh was also a SAFE Co-Co-Founder, SAFE had two new SAFE Executive Members in the persons of Mrs. Elisha Manning, Founding President-General of the Liberian Labor Congress (LLC) and Sheikh David Kiazolu, former Secretary-General of the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL).
Upon the invitation of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), SAFE attended the NPHIL Briefing on the Corona Virus. This Briefing helped SAFE to gather scientific knowledge nationally to combine with such knowledge obtained internationally from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and especially the Chief Medical Officer of the PRC, not forgetting Liberia’s world-renowned Public Health Scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Nyan.
With such knowledge, SAFE began its awareness-raising activities, covering Liberia. The Message is: Lassa Fever has re-emerged in Liberia. So, wash your hands with soap and ashes. Stay away from rats. Use rat medicine to keep rats away. The Corona Virus from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has emerged in Liberia. So, keep on washing your hands with soap and ashes. Stay away from persons who are coughing, sneezing, or having Fever. When you are coughing, sneezing, or having Fever, go to a clinic or a hospital or call 4455.
Through SAFE Volunteers, the SAFE Message has reached at least 60,000 persons directly. There is a multiplier effect, but the precise coverage is not known to SAFE. By the end of April 2020, the direct coverage is expected to be tripled. The Message is spread in all of the Liberian languages, Liberian English and simple English. The mass media and social media are being utilized. Community radio stations are particularly helpful.
The average market value of all of this work in spreading the SAFE Message is LD16,500,000, of which LD1,000,000 is cash, and LD15,500,000 is in-kind (volunteer work). During the time of the Ebola outbreak, the Rotary Club of Monrovia donated USD1,700 to SAFE, and that was used to buy megaphones and MP-3 chips that were operated by Volunteers in the Duala and Red Light markets. The SAFE Chairperson was the single largest Mobilizer of funds for the government bank account at the Central Bank of Liberia. Such an account has not been set up for the current Epidemics. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf commended the SAFE Chairperson for his efforts. With commendation to everyone involved in stopping the Epidemics, SAFE continues its work in the expectation that the Epidemics will end soon and be prevented from returning.
About the Author:
Togba-Nah Tipoteh, Ph.D., is an accomplished African economist, former Liberia’s Minister of Planning and Economic Affairs, a former consultant for the United Nations, and a retired veteran professor at the University of Liberia.