Thousands of kits containing basic hygiene items and thermometers are helping parents, staff and other community members keep children safe from infection from Ebola.
Schools began opening Monday in Liberia, with March 2 the deadline for all schools to be opened following a six-month closure over the Ebola outbreak.
In partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), UNICEF has provided over 7,000 kits, which partners have been distributing to over 4,000 schools in all 98 school districts.
School normally resume academic activities in September, but had remained closed because of Ebola.
“The Ebola outbreak has had a devastating effect on our health and education systems and our way of life in Liberia. We have managed to beat back the spread of the virus through collective efforts,” said Hon. Etmonia Tarpeh, Liberia’s Minister of Education. “Reopening and getting our children back to school is an important aspect of ensuring children’s education is not further interrupted,” she added.
With the support of UNICEF, and other international partners, the Government of Liberia has developed protocols for the safe re-opening of schools. Among other steps, these protocols call for setting up hand-washing stations, checking the temperature of anyone entering the school, establishing an isolation area for children and staff who may fall ill, and having in place a system of referral to the nearest health facility.
The infection prevention kits, as well as training on the protocols provided by UNICEF, will help schools, parent-teacher associations (PTAs), and communities further minimize the risk of infection from Ebola.
“UNICEF is supporting the Ministries of Education and Health in our common goal of seeing all Liberian children back in school as soon as possible and as safely as possible. The provision of thousands of these kits, and ongoing training on the protocols is part of our commitment to the children of Liberia” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative in Liberia.
Over 30 partner organizations are currently delivering the kits, which contain thermometers, buckets with faucets, chlorine, soap, brooms and brushes, rubber boots and gloves.
“We urge community members, teachers and staff at schools, and students themselves to ensure that the protocols are implemented, to keep students, communities and families safe,” said Hon. Tolbert Nyenswah , Assistant Minister of Health and Chair of the Incident Management System, the national body for the technical coordination of the Ebola response in Liberia.
UNICEF is also supporting awareness-raising efforts on how to implement the protocols and help keep schools safe, including training District Education Officers (DEOs), Environmental Health Technicians, District Health Officers (DHOs), NGO partners, and religious leaders, who will in turn be conducting similar trainings on the infection prevention protocols in all 15 counties.
“This is part of the broader support we are providing to the Government of Liberia in its fight against the Ebola outbreak” added Yett. “We are committed to continue working with the Government and people of Liberia in eradicating Ebola from the country, and supporting efforts that benefit the children and women of Liberia in the years to come.”