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Highlight stigmatization in Ebola awareness campaign

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The death toll of Ebola victims has now reached 3,083, while there are 6,553 cases. The figures are based on information provided on September 23 by the Ministries of Health in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone- the countries most impacted by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia told world leaders at the United Nations last week that at least 85 of Liberia’s more than 1,700 Ebola victims were healthcare workers. Despite their vulnerability due to the risk they take in attending to suspected and confirmed Ebola patients at the treatment centers in the country, very little appreciation seems to be characterizing the dangerous work health workers are currently doing.

As ‘foot soldiers’ in the ongoing battle against the deadly Ebola virus disease, health workers are working overtime to ensure the safety of hundreds of Liberians from the disease through care and  the administration of  syndromic treatments at the various treatment centers.  And because of their association with efforts to eradicate the virus from the country, they are now being stigmatized by community members and ‘land lords’. Some health workers are even being threatened with eviction by landlords, while others are reportedly being given notice to leave. Such behavior by these Liberians toward these special tenants is a complete show of the most serious ingratitude and wickedness.

Such attitude against health workers under serious risk just to sane life are only perpetrated by ‘enemies of humanity’. Where these medical practitioners work is even more hygienic and protective than the homes of landlords. As a matter of fact, landlords must be more grateful about the presence of these health workers as tenants in their homes/houses, considering their assistance in ensuring adherence to the application of the various precautionary measures against the Ebola virus as announced by the Government of Liberia, through the Health.

While we welcome the prompt intervention of the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the necessary mechanisms must also put in place to monitor the situation. Perhaps, one mechanism could an awareness/sensitization campaign against stigmatization. During this campaign, the minds and attitudes of community dwellers and land lords toward Liberians who survive from Ebola and health workers. Community members and land lords must be told in this campaign, why survivors and health workers must not be seen as ‘harmful’ people because of inflated perception that they work for or come from ‘Ebola centers’.

We are of the fervent belief that while there is an ongoing anti-Ebola awareness campaign, authorities of the Health Ministry and international partners should intersperse such campaign with the issue of stigmatization of health workers and survivors. This will only complete the entire anti-Ebola awareness process.

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