Francis Lansana, Accountability Resident, Liberia

 

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties, in the Northwest of Liberia.  Quarantines were imposed on these counties for much of August in an attempt to combat the spread of Ebola.  The quarantine imposed in the densely populated township of West Point, in the capital, drew considerable media attention, however similar measures have inflicted strain over other parts of the country as well.

In the counties of Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu, severe travel restrictions remain in place, despite the widespread condemnations that the quarantine measures received.  Klay, a strategically located town in Bomi County that serves as an access point for much of Liberia’s Northwest is flooded with armed personnel.  Nominally, the security forces are manning checkpoints and monitoring travelers to ensure that individuals effected with the Ebola virus are not mobile and avoiding designated facilities.

However, my experience was that these roadblocks play no substantive role in halting the spread of the virus.  Unlike the detailed measures taken for air travelers out of Liberia, there were no steps in place at the roadblocks in Klay to assess if a traveler suffered from Ebola.  Security forces merely asked travelers to present their id cards, a step universal at the ubiquitous roadblocks in Liberia.

In my discussions with residents of the region, it quickly became clear that Ebola response teams and Ebola sensitization messages were making minimal impact.  While the government often notes that Liberians should stop denying the existence of Ebola and transparently report any suspected cases, citizens in these counties countered by noting that Ebola response teams are not addressing their concerns in a timely manner or providing useful or comprehensible public health education messages.

I also observed the strain that the situation is placing on food security in the region.  The government is stressing that citizens should avoid the consumption of bush meat.  As a result, diets are lacking a significant amount of protein.  In much of rural Liberia, bush meat constitutes a significant amount of protein consumed.  Fish are another important source of protein, but the rainy season (now coming to an end) makes it difficult to harvest them from creeks and rivers.

While the rapid spread of Ebola in Liberia’s capital is gaining international attention, there is also a crisis in Liberia’s more rural areas.  Greater efforts centering around awareness and resource distribution are needed to ensure that Ebola is effectively tackled in all corners of Liberia and that the crisis does not have disastrous consequences for long-term community relations.

To help support the Lab’s efforts to alleviate Ebola fall out, please vote for us at the Innovating Justice Awards here.

 

 

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Update on the Situation in Liberia as of August 21, 2014

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West Point Health and Sanitation Office; Photo Credit: Joseph Hong) West Point Health and Sanitation Office; Photo Credit: Joseph Hong

By Francis Egu Lansana and Mitchell Sommers, Accountability Lab Residents in Liberia and Washington DC respectively.

The spread of Ebola continues to undermine stability in Liberia as it faces the most devastating onset of the virus in history. Recently the community of West Point, a neighborhood with which the Lab has worked closely, has become a global flashpoint for the tensions and fear caused by the disease.

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The first Ebola patient in Liberia was discovered in March 2014 in Foya District, Lofa County located in the North-western region of Liberia (MoHSW). Foya is sharing a common border with the Republic of Guinea the first country in West Africa to have an alarming Ebola case. According to reports, the first person to be diagnosed of Ebola in Liberia came from Guinea. When this disease was first pronounced in Liberia, the citizens including the government did not understand the gravity of it and therefore less attention was pay to it.

But the epidemic of Ebola has created not only  health hazard ,economic hardship rather it has caused physical insecurity leading to president of Liberia declaring state of emergency thereby causing closure  of jobs, business and tighten the free movement of people in the country (declaring curfew). Educational system and investment activities are all at stand still. The spread of the EVD is getting intensify day-by-day.

The fight against this disease is becoming the concern of every Liberian. Having recognized the importance of music in transforming society, Accountability lab in partnership with the Business Start-Up Center  have united all musical artists  to form one common front in this fight against EVD. It is often said “in union strong success is sure”, this has manifested itself in Liberia in the fight against Ebola as all musical artists in Liberia have come together to speak with one voice.

According to the artists, their work has the potential to easily and widely spread educative message to every corner and to everyone. Therefore coming together is one of the best thing to do as a musicians in helping to educate all inhabitants of Liberia about the dangers of Ebola, how to prevent it and to re-brand Liberia.

This is a national call and every citizens of Liberia contribution in either way is very much useful in this fight. The situation is getting worse as West Point, a slum in Monrovia which host a population of over 50000 people.

Psycho-social contribution is greatly needed in this fight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It is the right of everyone to know.

Education to the people through mural.

In an effort to live up-to its objective, Accountabilitylab along with Liberia VisuaArts Academy (LiveArts) have embarked on a mural project in Monrovia. The project which is aim at putting everyday common social, political and economic happenings into a visual object to help persons who have not pass through formal western education to be knowledgeable of how to contribute to change in their society is ongoing on 15th street in Sinkor Monrovia Liberia. Accountability Lab team works with innovative people and organizations in Liberia to develop tools- and the communities around them- that can empower people to create positive social change.

Topics addressed in this project range from domestic waste management, health, road safety and personal character building. The lab has observed over the past years that majority of Liberian can’t read and comprehend and globally, visual object that depicts human everyday behavior provides a wider scope of education. And as the Lab aim is to keep people informed no matter your age, education, socio-economic status has taken onto this project in educating every inhabitants of Liberia about how each person’s positive contribution can lead us into having a better community.

As I stood and carefully listen to passes-by, these were some of their saying;

  • This is really what we called clear message to the people. Even babies on their mother’s back can easily understand this.
  • This is more effective in spread the news about the change we want.
  • This is more than having radio talk show and or writing about how you want the people to change.
  • With this, Liberia will now change.

The change you need for the people must start with the people. The lab has understood that the message for change has previously been focused on those who can read and write leaving out majority who have not acquired the potential to read and write. What is created by the people can be best manage by them and as such using their own everyday common behavior to preach the message of change can easily shape their focus to the change you wish to see. Change doesn’t start from up but rather it start from down.

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The Accountability Lab is an incubator for the world’s most creative accountability ideas. In Liberia, the team works with innovative people and organizations to develop tools- and the communities around them- that can make power-holders more responsible.

In paving the way to preach accountability messages, the Accountability Lab has trained a group of Young Religious Leaders in Liberia to help spread the message of “Religious contributions in the fight against corruption”.   This group is composed of Islamic youth, Christian youth, and other religious youth leading the way in spreading the message about religious tolerance and its impact on the growth of the country.

 

Liberia is a highly religious country, yet corruption is found in all sectors of the country. The Young Religious Leaders noted that all of the major religions in Liberia teach about tolerance and acceptance, yet this is far from the reality in Liberia. If Liberians actually lived by the word of God that they embrace so deeply on the outside, the economic condition of the country would be much improved.  The Young Religious Leaders understand that if they do not take the lead on preaching the gospel of accountability to their congregation, our suffering tomorrow will be more than what it is today.  Making Liberia better doesn’t have to depend on those in political power; rather it must start from us.  If we start to live the creed of our religions, we will have a better Liberia and everybody will change.

 

The Young Religious Leaders are based in Logan Town, a community in Monrovia with a population of about 20,000 inhabitants. 70-80% of this population are Christians or Muslims. Out of the total population of Logan Town, 60-75 % of the total youth population comes from low-income families.

 

Our Religious Tolerance Accountability Project does not aim to convert anyone to a specific religion. Rather, the goal is to make sure that all religious leaders understand the message of accountability and have the tools to effectively incorporate a religious code of accountability into their sermons.

 

 

 

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The Accountability Lab is an incubator for the world’s most creative accountability ideas. In Liberia, the team works with innovative people and organizations to develop tools- and the communities around them- that can make power-holders more responsible.

Justice is a building block for accountability. It’s also a crucial element of sustainable peace and development.  In an effort to support peace and foster development in Liberia, the Accountability Lab is promoting the use of conflict mediation and resolution with citizens in low-income communities of Monrovia.

The project, which was first initiated in West Point and implemented by the West Point Health & Sanitation Organization (WPHSO), has now been scaled-up to Logan Town on Monrovia’s Bushrod Island.

Logan Town is a community that has a population of over 30,000 inhabitants and only one police station which, it is widely agreed, does not have the capacity to respond to the legal and security needs of citizens. In an effort to support the Liberian government in building peace and bringing justice to all, the Accountability Lab is training eight mediators in Logan Town. The mediators will work with the local court and police department to refer cases back down to locally trained Community Justice Teams, who will work to resolve disputes sustainably.

The Accountability Lab believes that building the capacity of community members to solve disputes in their communities is one of the best ways to promote peace and democracy, which in turn leads to development. The Lab has observed that aggrieved parties are more responsive to non-binding mediation and often engage in more constructive dialogue without the threat of formal legal sanction that inherently arises in governmental courts.  In our work in West Point, there has not been a single instance of recidivism in the cases that have been dealt with by our trained mediators.

In the eyes of many Liberians, the use of conventional legal systems such as the police and courts are expensive, time-consuming and not the best way to solve civil disputes. As a result, many people resolve their grievances through violent means. As an institution that works from the bottom-up with a real focus on citizens, the Accountability Lab is working to ensure that disputes are resolved in more constructive ways.

The Logan town Alternative Dispute Resolution Center will be managed and run by the Citizens Bureau for Development and Productivity, a local NGO led by John Kamma. In our training for the mediators, Mr. Kamma opened the session with some words of caution. “Access to justice through the formal justice system is an accountability issue. The loss of public trust and confidence in the justice sector is a direct result of the police and courts being unresponsive to citizens’ needs.”

“When an aggrieved party is unable to meet the financial costs associated with the court system, justice is repeatedly delayed or denied. This is shameful for a formal justice system that should serve everyone equitably and adequately, regardless of money, age, or status- and it is a recipe for potential conflict. Something must be done to restore the functioning of justice in Liberia.” Through this project, we are doing it- and we look forward to keeping you updated from on-the-ground here in Monrovia.CJT

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