At any given time, we are responding to over 30 emergency situations. We provide life-saving essentials in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster and to people affected by conflict, as well as long-term development support. You can help.
Hundreds of local volunteers are helping Oxfam to provide support and information to more than 400,000 people living in Ebola-affected communities in West Africa to stop the spread of the disease.
Trusted community-based health volunteers supported by Oxfam are going door-to-door in parts of Sierra Leone and Liberia to educate families about how the Ebola virus is spread and the importance of early treatment.
The aid agency is also supporting a range of other approaches to provide information to communities including working with religious and community leaders and using radio broadcasts to engage people and spread Ebola awareness messages.
Volunteers come in many different guises; from the parents of small children to experienced volunteers who’ve worked in the past on other public health campaigns.
Agnes Nyantie, a volunteer supported by Oxfam in Liberia who spends six days a week visiting 20 homes a day to talk with families about Ebola, says: “People feel bad. They can't see Ebola. They don't know how people get it but they want it to go away.”
No access to information
There is a lot of fear, denial and stigma attached to the highly contagious disease as it’s the first time it’s appeared in West Africa. Without an extensive network of volunteers it would be impossible to reach tens of thousands of people with information and advice on how they can protect themselves.
The majority of the population in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea can’t read or write and don’t have internet access. The way they get information is mostly via word of mouth, through community leaders, from their radio or from public billboards.
Oxfam has also employed a range of other tactics to promote good hygiene and safe burial practices, and to encourage communities to respond to Ebola survivors with acceptance, not rejection, including working with faith leaders and respected elders.
So far almost 5,000 people have been killed by the virus and more than 13,000 have been infected. The World Health Organisation has warned that the number of new cases could reach up to 10,000 a week by December if more isn’t done to prevent the disease spreading.
Oxfam has helped local radio stations to produce messages, jingles and programming that inform people about Ebola and how to stop the spread of the disease as part of its wider prevention work. Oxfam is calling on the G20, meeting next week, to help combat the spread of the disease by increasing the numbers of medics and military on the ground and by making sure pledged funding is spent quickly to support the effort.
Notes to editors
Photos and case study of Community Health Volunteer Agnes Nyantie in Monrovia, Liberia
VNR of Community Health Volunteers in Liberia, visiting houses, demonstrating hand washing