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Liberia hit by COVID-19 and hunger

Liberia anti-COVID-19 training

Michigan’s covenant partners in Liberia have undertaken an Anti-COVID-19 campaign. Assistance is needed in their efforts to raise awareness, distribute supplies, and provide food.

KAY DEMOSS
Senior Content Editor

In early March, the Liberia Conference, under the leadership of Bishop Samuel Quire, formed a task force that drafted an Anti-COVID-19 Campaign Project. The introduction to the plan reported, “there are only 298 medical doctors responsible for the population of 4.5 million.” It also noted that the adult literacy rate in Liberia is 47%, and the population speaks 15 indigenous languages.

Handwashing station in Liberia.
Lango W. Toe, director of health for The United Methodist Church in Liberia, demonstrates hand-washing at one of the stations set up along the streets in Sinkor. ~ UMNews/E Julu Swen

In light of those realities, the plan stated: “There is a need for creative and innovative ways to roll out impactful awareness activities.” While the government’s Ministry of Health was preparing to address the future outbreak of the virus, the Liberia Conference confirmed, “We are filling in the gap by offering awareness messaging through its church and health care structures and desire to strengthen these activities by expanding our efforts.”

The purpose of the Anti-COVID-19 Task Force is to educate the population about the health risks, mobilize resources, support those affected, and assist in the eradication of COVID-19 in the country. A proposed budget of $107,850 would recruit and train personnel, purchase food for those most vulnerable, and obtain needed supplies – handwashing buckets, bleach, sanitizers, and face masks.

Education took place at the five United Methodist health facilities in Liberia. The General Board of Global Ministries provided a $10,000 grant to implement the training of 138 community organizers who helped launch public awareness activities.

On March 16, 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Liberia. The Liberia Conference started the campaign on April 1.

On April 21, E. Julu Swen wrote in a feature story for UM News, that the United Methodist health facilities in Liberia “are using their experiences in fighting Ebola to prepare to battle the coronavirus.” Lango W. Toe, director of health for the church in Liberia, was quoted, “the isolation ward at Ganta Hospital, used during the Ebola crisis, is now ready to deal with any coronavirus case.” Toe added that Ganta is the only church hospital with ventilators. Personal Protective Equipment is minimal.

As of May 5, the World Health Organization statistics for Liberia are 170 infected with the virus and 30 dead.

Two months after the formation of the task force, the Rev. Jon Reynolds, chair of the Michigan Conference Liberia Covenant Partners, talks about what has transpired. “Bishop Quire asked all United Methodist churches in the country to shut down to help prevent the spread of the disease.” Reynolds adds that the government also shut down all schools and non-essential businesses. “That has led to complete economic collapse. And due to the dire economic situation in Liberia, there is no government bail-or or stimulus for the people.”

Click here to view a video that shares more about the Liberia Conference’s three-pronged approach to fight COVID-19. You will meet Liberian leaders who describe the pain and heartache being experienced by families there.

Liberia food distribution
The Anti-COVID-19 campaign budgeted $35,000 for food for the vulnerable. The main staple is rice, shown here in distribution to the Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village. ~ photo courtesy Jon Reynolds

Consequently, any in-country funding for the activities outlined in the Anti-COVID-19 Campaign has dried up. Food is as critical a concern as coronavirus at present. The Liberia Conference hopes to participate in food distribution to avert a “mass extinction event with more than 10% of the population lost to disease and starvation.”

On April 29, the Michigan-Liberia Partnership sent $4,500 to the Liberia Conference. Two partner churches have agreed to match any money raised for health, sanitation, and food support during this time. The Liberia Conference is an EngageMI ministry partner. Monetary contributions to help combat the further spread of COVID-19 in Liberia may be made online through the EngageMI PayPal link. Click here and use the Give link on the Liberia Ministry Partnership Tile. Checks with the memo to “Liberia Ministry Partners #3041” may be sent to The Michigan Annual Conference, 1161 E. Clark Road, Suite 212, DeWitt, MI 48820. Every dollar you give will be tripled up to $4,500. Reynolds comments, “Please send me an email if you want to designate your dollars specifically for food, training, equipment, or sanitation-related projects. I’ll work to make sure you get photographs of the good your contributions do.”

Covenant partners in the Illinois Great River Conference and the East Ohio Conference have also sent contributions and medical supplies to Liberia to support the Anti-COVID-19 effort. “Together, we can help flatten their curve, saving as many lives as possible,” Reynolds observes. “For me, this fight is personal; I have hundreds of friends and colleagues in Liberia. Liberians are some of the most faithful, welcoming, hardworking, and inspirational people you will ever meet.” Reynolds asks for prayers for our brothers and sisters in Liberia.

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