PCI Liberia staff

Dealing with Ebola, Up Close and Personal

Jolene Mullins, PCI’s Country Director in Liberia, was recently featured in a U-T San Diego article, highlighting her and PCI’s commitment to fighting the Ebola outbreak.

The reality of the extent of the Ebola epidemic truly hits home for all of us on the ground in Liberia more each day.  Thankfully an increasing number of experts from the WHO, CDC, USAID, and others are arriving, but as we see the lives of everyone in the region impacted before our eyes, we know there’s a long road ahead until the outbreak is over.

No one from outside Liberia honestly realized how bad the outbreak was until they visited the Ebola treatment centers at the ELWA and John F. Kennedy Hospitals.  As an NGO representative, when you hear questions like, “Who is able to take over the burying of bodies immediately?” or “the situation is so much worse than we realized,” then the hidden reality here in Monrovia becomes even more real.

Many of my colleagues talk about bodies being left in their neighbor’s homes for days because there is no one to pick them up, and the number of families, neighbors, who are being taken away never to return, increases daily.  That’s when the reality of Ebola slaps you in the face.

But then you think about the strength and the resilience of the people of Liberia and West Africa, and you realize there’s hope.  While the experts say we are looking at another 6-8 months of the outbreak, our staff continues to come to work, shops continue to open, and people continue to smile, support, and assist one another.

Our teams on the ground have truly become focal points in their communities for information, for educational materials, and for medical advice.  We continue to raise awareness through community groups, PTAs, PSAs on radio, and we are training Ministry of Health workers on how to prevent and treat this horrible virus.  And we continue to distribute medical equipment and supplies like bleach, gloves, and protective gowns.  Just this week 400 communities have received hand washing buckets and bleach.

We are moving forward and talking about services and support for Ebola orphans and identifying new communities with new suspected cases where we can provide awareness, services, and ultimately prevent the outbreak from growing.

Every person on our team has a thermometer at home to check themselves and their family members for fevers.  And as the health care system is still staggering under the weight of Ebola and the related fears, neighbors are coming to check their own temperatures.

One staff member told me today that a woman came to his house with a fever, and I panicked!  I asked if he touched her, I asked what other symptoms she had, and I asked if she had entered his home.  He told me how he wore gloves, never touched her directly, and drenched his hands with bleach after she left.  We have to remind ourselves that “not every fever is Ebola.”

We have no idea what the future holds, but PCI is here for the long haul, and our Liberian staff and the Liberian people are so appreciative that we are standing beside them.

While it’s tough, I am so proud to be here working with an incredible staff to do whatever we can to end this deadly scourge and get back to our real work of providing opportunity for the Liberians to build better lives for themselves and their families.

Jolene Mullins
PCI Liberia Country Director

Learn more about PCI’s Ebola response efforts in Liberia.