Ebola: Liberia prepares to reopen schools after next week

Tuesday, February 03, 2015
[PHOTO: UNifeed]
Monrovia, Liberia: Preparations are underway in Liberia for the reopening of schools, four months after the beginning of the school year was indefinitely postponed due to the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

At the warehouse in Monrovia, workers scramble to put together hundreds of school kits to be distributed to school all across the country.

The Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) kits include materials to make schools safer from EVD.

"We are doing all the packing of the IPC kits, and then we are distributing all those kits to all the schools in Liberia. The IPC kits they contain like buckets for hand washing stations, chorine, soap, protection gear like gloves and boots, and also cloths and brooms that they would need for cleaning," says UNICEF Communications Specialist - Helena Sandbu Ryeng.

Schools were slated to reopen 2nd February but even as EVD cases have dramatically decreased in Liberia, the government decided to push the date an additional two weeks to make sure that every element was in place.
"Gaps in education are cracks in children's future. That's why UNICEF is so eager to see children back in school. But, it has to be in a safe way," Ryeng stresses.

Another crucial step for a safe reopening of schools is to ensure that all children are up to date with their vaccinations.

The Pipeline Community Health Centre in Monrovia is stepping up its vaccination campaign, after months when mothers were afraid to bring their children to be immunized.
"Mothers were afraid to bring their children to be vaccinated because  all that they heard about was they are going to give our children Ebola vaccine, and nobody wanted to be associated or neither to have their children being given Ebola vaccine," says Rebecca Varney, Officer in Charge, Pipeline Community Health Centre.

The clinic offers a variety of vaccines, with an emphasis on polio, which is endemic, particularly in schools.
"At this time now we when can vaccinate their children to prevent them from getting measles, it will be so much better for our school system, because other children will not get infected or infect other children of measles," Varney adds.

The United Nations  Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) has conducted facility inspections to help determine the readiness of schools to provide a safe environment.  In addition, UNMEER using its two MI-8 helicopters and ground transportation helps UNICEF and partners distribute IPC kits. -UNifeed
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