Ebola-Free and Determined, Liberia and Mali Enter the Next Stage in the Fight Against Ebola

Duncan McCullough

The devastation from Ebola in West-Africa has been severe, but signs of hope can increasingly be seen.  It has been over six weeks since the last laboratory-confirmed casualty from the disease in Liberia, and on May 9th, the World Health Organization officially declared the nation free of Ebola virus transmission.  Liberians were justifiably jubilant with the announcement, and declared a public holiday the next day.  Men, women, and children took to the streets to share in each other’s joy – not because the fight against Ebola is over, but because now the arduous work to grow and advance beyond the crisis can begin.

One of the programs we profile here at CEI provides a heartening example of this new phase.  One Moore Book is an organization founded in 2011 that publishes storybooks for early learners.  These books use beautiful imagery and culturally rich narratives to provide children with stories that are directly relevant, and largely untold by the traditional book publishing industry.  Even more so after the pain and loss of the past year, these beautiful stories can provide a critical resource for children determined to resume their education.
Unfortunately, One Moore Book’s Liberian operations were severely disrupted by the spread of Ebola.  Their store was closed, and much of their operations were halted.  Like most in the country, Ebola brought a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty to their lives.  But now, as transmission of the virus appears to have stopped, work can begin anew. 

One Moore Bookstore in Liberia

Renovations to the One Moore Bookstore in Monrovia have resumed, and the grand re-opening will be following soon.  One Moore Book’s resilience and passion is a testament to the determination in the region to move on from Ebola’s devastating effects.  Serious structural weaknesses remain, and addressing these deficiencies will require concentrated efforts from local and international actors alike.  But after so much death and destruction, a re-opening bookstore is a welcome sign of a better, more hopeful future.

Mali, like Liberia, is another country slowly emerging from the grips of Ebola.  Mali has not seen a confirmed case of the disease since late last year.  Though considerable challenges persist, hard-fought progress is being made.  Another CEI profiled program, the Mali Out-of-School Youth Project (PAJE-Nieta in French) recently held a graduation ceremony for its second cohort of participants.

Faces that may have once been hidden by anti-contagion masks now smile widely.  These young men and women (pictured at the top of the page) are proud of their accomplishments, and optimistic about their futures.  And they are right to be. 

PAJE-Nieta connects with out-of-school youth in Mali and trains them in the necessary skills to become entrepreneurs.  The program combines classes for basic educational numeracy and literacy with professional and technical training.  Beneficiaries are provided with startup capital and mentorship to nurture these young businesses into sustainably profitable enterprises. Beyond touching individual lives, the program aims to have a broader economic impact as well.  Now more than ever, Mali needs these enterprising young men and women to succeed.

These two programs are but a glimpse at the difficult work recommencing in the wake of Ebola.  Much more progress remains to be made.  With the aim of contributing to this progress, CEI and the Center for Health Market Innovations, in partnership with the UBS Optimus Foundation, are searching for innovative programs working in child health, education, and violence prevention in West Africa.  Of particular interest are programs that have an integrated approach to promote optimal development for vulnerable children.  To nominate a program for this innovation search, click here.

The road to recovery for the region after Ebola will be long, but every new book in a child’s hands, and every new graduate with the skills to earn an independent income, provides a glimmer of hope.  Combine enough of these individual glimmers, and the future begins to look a lot brighter.

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