Liberia has faced some of the worst struggles nationally in modern times, but local believers are working to make sure that COVID-19 isn’t added to the list.
Africa’s oldest republic, Liberia is situated on the edge of the Ivory Coast. It was founded by freed slaves from the United States and the Caribbean, and its leaders have introduced numerous progressive reforms such as giving women the vote in1946 — a freedom women in other African countries didn’t receive until years, if not decades, later — being a founding member of the United Nations and electing a female head of state in 2005.
However, as the BBC notes, Liberia “became known in the 1990s for its long-running, ruinous civil war and its role in a rebellion in neighbouring Sierra Leone.”
This civil war claimed the lives of about a quarter million people and left thousands more mutilated. The country is filled with young men and women who were forcibly made child soldiers by military warlords and now must grapple with the emotional and psychological trauma that resulted.
Thousands of children who were too young to be conscripted in the 90s are coming of age today as orphans thanks to the long war and thousands more joined their ranks between 2013 and 2016 as an Ebola epidemic swept through the countryside.
Many still remember the dignified, well-heeled state of their beloved homeland before it was ravaged by military coups, civil wars and the epidemic.
Struck by the Pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, Liberia didn’t hesitate to respond. The Ebola epidemic was still fresh in everyone’s memory. As Aljazeera notes, Liberia “was one of the first countries to introduce airport screening measures as the new coronavirus began spreading outside China, where it emerged late last year, while hand-washing facilities appeared outside shops and offices as early as January.”
These proactive measures have been desperately needed, since the country simply doesn’t have the means for a prolonged battle with the virus. Hospital staff are not equipped to help COVID patients.
Case in point, only one ventilator is available for the entire country.
Prevention has been key for everyone in Liberia, so the government has promised to deliver masks to all of the country’s citizens. With their already faltering economy, however, this has proved impossible.
Instead, World Challenge partners are working together to create reusable masks for rural schools and orphanages who are least likely to receive one from the already overburdened government.
“The last few days of donating reusable masks in the fight against COVID-19,” reported one team member, “have profoundly touched us all. God chooses to use what we assume is little to build up the lives of others.
“The Bible recalls many stories of giving, and one of my favorites is the widow whom Jesus said gave her all, the last penny that she had.
“Most of the sites we made donations to had common issues with lack of food, soap and masks. Orphanage homes outside of the capital city of Monrovia have suffered a lot from the government of Liberia’s empty promises to donate food and masks to every citizens.”
Together, the team has produced about 700 masks and distributed 360 pieces of soap for cleaning hands and potentially contaminated surfaces.
Preparing for the Future
Like many other countries around the world, Liberians’ lives have essentially gone on hold throughout the pandemic, and many are concerned about what the repercussions will be when this is all over.
School lessons have gone onto the radio, a much more common household device in Liberia than televisions or computers.
George Cowell, the managing director of Rising Academics in Liberia, stated that “the radio initiative is to maintain pupils' engagement with the education system to increase rates of return once schools reopen. This will be particularly important in the face of the inevitable economic hardship following the pandemic, which will hit poor families hardest.”
In the meanwhile, civil servants and church organizations like our partners are working as hard as they can to help people get past the pandemic and prepare them for re-entry into society.
The team reported, “It's been said that the government of Liberia will soon allow business and Church services to resume, which means many people in the communities will need to protect themselves against the virus. With your help, we can accomplish this.”
As they work hard to bless their country, please join us in praying for Liberia and our brothers and sisters there in the church.