The African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) hopes to get involved in efforts to stop Ebola by providing culturally sensitive information that is urgently needed to contain the swift expansion of the virus.
As Ebola spreads rapidly throughout West Africa, people in affected areas are gripped by ignorance, suspicion and unreasoning fear. This has led to actions by the public that are counterproductive and harmful, the most recent being an attack on a health centre in the Liberian capital of Monrovia.
There are those who believe Ebola is a hoax; some relatives are removing patients from hospital, while others blame healthcare workers for bringing Ebola themselves.
“Some rural communities refuse to comply with measures proposed by international NGOs and central authorities, which they see as the source of the problem,” said Fr Paterne Mombe SJ, director of AJAN.
“This means community leaders and organisations, and this includes the Church, have an urgent role to play to enlighten people and to avoid disaster.”
AJAN has long experience in drafting and disseminating easy-to-understand and culturally appropriate material about the AIDS epidemic. The network now plans to draw on this expertise to produce IEC (Information – Education – Communication) materials about Ebola. The materials will be disseminated in communities where Jesuits and other Church agencies like Caritas are present.
Fr Mombe said: “We are calling for support to produce illustrated posters, flyers and leaflets to bridge the big information gap and to address the fears of Ebola that people are experiencing everywhere in Africa at this point.”
The plan of AJAN is to distribute the IEC materials in countries neighbouring those already affected, such as Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Cameroon. Depending on resources, AJAN also plans to cover other African countries where Ebola may yet appear, such as Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Kenya.
In a second phase of intervention, the illustrated posters, flyers and leaflets will be accompanied by workshops and training-of-trainers, to enable local communities to share accurate information that will help prevent the spread of Ebola.