Moving beyond Ebola in Liberia

Abel is a One Young World Ambassador and the President of the Natural Resources Research Initiative. Abel was trained in Civic Leadership at Tulane University, after being selected from thousands to take part in the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program, the flagship program of President Obama's Young African Leaders Initiative.

Living in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic inspired me to become involved in Ebola prevention. I am the President of the Natural Resources Research Initiative (NRRI) and founder of the incredibly important Action Prevents Ebola (APE) campaign, an initiative that educates Ebola-affected communities and empowers them to take part in preventative measures against the Ebola virus disease in Liberia. 

Constant hand washing is the primary requirement in the fight against Ebola. The NRRI, and the APE campaign, worked to distribute treated water and, directly, benefited ten communities in Paynesville City. The project was also supported by the American Embassy in Monrovia and by the Regional Resource Governance programs (GIZ) in Liberia.

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NRRI installed barrels of treated water in various communities in Paynesville City to enable community members and children to wash their hands constantly. This photo was taken in the Rockhole community, Liberia. 

I was also involved in fundraising because we experienced delays in receiving money from our regular grant donors. On November 5, 2014, some musicians from New Orleans headlined a benefit, in association with the NRRI, to spread awareness of, and fundraise for, the prevention of the spread of Ebola in Liberia. NRRI's US-based partners, Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) and Africa Brass, hosted the United Against Ebola benefit to support the APE campaign. There was also a silent auction of local art. Funds raised by the event were used to distribute chloride bottles, hand-washing buckets, bags of rice, and educated 100,000 people about Ebola in five Liberian communities. 

NRRI fights for the inclusion of young people in the decision making process for Liberia’s natural resources and wants empower youth to prevent potential conflicts and the associated human rights abuses. On July 22, 2014, NRRI hosted the annual Natural Resource Day (NRD) in partnership with the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation and GIZ Liberia. We also hosted the United Nations Environment Program Tunza program with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and the UN Development Program in Liberia. Tunza is a Liberian youth platform for the environment and sustainable development.

As a One Young World Ambassador, my organisation’s involvement against the Ebola crisis also reflected One Young World’s involvement in the fight against Ebola in Liberia. In 2014, I was offered an opportunity to take part in the One Young World summit in Dublin. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the summit in Dublin because I was denied a visa by the Irish government during the Ebola epidemic. However, I initiated a conversation with some of the other delegates who were attending the summit and we organised a march and a petition to take to the WHO. I am proud that I continued to fight for a voice in Dublin, despite not being able to attend the summit. 

On the May 9th, 2015, Liberia was declared Ebola free. My personal fight against Ebola, as well as the sustained efforts of many other organisations, has ensured that there has only been one case since then. Today, our fight has changed, we now need to help the children who were orphaned as the result of Ebola. NRRI is helping to send orphaned children to school and we are working on launching the Ebola Orphan Scholarship Fund, beginning in September, to offer support for 100 children in Liberia for two years. We are hoping to fundraise for these scholarships through this online fundraising campaign.  

In the future, I want to continue my work in Liberia and will strive to empower young people to become involved in political and decision making processes. In particular, focusing on youth participation within the public health and environmental spheres.