Info Saves Lives: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

by Internews
Info Saves Lives: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
Info Saves Lives: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
Info Saves Lives: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
Info Saves Lives: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
Info Saves Lives: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
Info Saves Lives: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

Thank you so much for your contributions to our project. With your generous donations, Internews has been supporting CAAEB,Community Action Against Ebola (CAAEB), an Internews partner, led by nurse Aaron Debah and Roosevelt Dolo. The organization is made up of professional nurses, church members and other community members who spread information through radio programs and face-to-face interactions with the public.

Callers to educational radio programs broadcast on Voice of Gompa, HOT FM and Radio Kergeamahn expressed concern about denial that still exists in the country.

“According to many participants on the radio show, if we don’t accept the true existence of Ebola as a virus that kills fast and presently in Ganta and other parts of Liberia, we as a country will never be successful in the fight against Ebola,” said Debah.

As well as radio, CAAEB outreach workers go house-to-house and distribute flyers to educate the community about preventing the spread of Ebola and to reduce the stigma that Ebola survivors face when they return home.

Rumors and misinformation – that Ebola does not exist, that the government is behind its spread, that medicine is available but not being given, and many more  –  are exacerbating the problem and CAAEB volunteers work to inform the community with the facts about Ebola.

Amid all the misconceptions, Debah said many people are becoming aware of the existence of the virus and are practicing proper safety procedures.

Liberia is still struggling with other issues related to the spread of Ebola, such as a lack of food, medical supplies and protective gear and a need for clothing for Ebola victims, whose belongings have to be burned. There is also a need for care of children orphaned by the disease.

Once again, we ask for your support. Please renew your donation to support Internews' Ebola Work on GlobalGiving

Help us to continue to ensure that communities at risk, and especially those living in remote rural areas, get the right information now: how to identify early symptoms, prevent transmission, what to do and where to go. We need your help now more than ever to make sure we can continue to support Aaron and projects like his all over West Africa.

Specifically in Liberia, CAAEB volunteers are in need of motorbikes, a scanner/copier/printer for materials, mobile phones, and money to pay for radio airtime. Donate today>>

Thank you once again for your support.

P.S.Our dear friend and colleague, Aaron runs a radio program integrating SMS and call-ins, which has transitioned from a focus on local mental health issues to Ebola since the crisis began. PBS NewsHour did a segment on this earlier this year.

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Thank you for your support of our mission and our project in West Africa – where, with your donations, we are working to ensure that accurate, timely, reliable and contextualized local information about the nature, spread and treatment of the Ebola Disease Virus is provided and shared with the affected population by health workers and media.

If you donated today, your donation has been matched 100% by the Paul G Allen Family Foundation, doubling your impact and putting us that much closer to our fundraising goal. Thank you for your support!

It has been an extremely busy week since we launched our project on GlobalGiving. In Guinea, where Internews has been working since the early days of the outbreak, we have dramatically increased the amount of Ebola-related content on radios in the capital, in the South East and cross-border into Liberia. Our team in Guinea travelled to Monrovia, Liberia for a quick assessment of the environment, and a team member in Sierra Leona conducted a rapid assessment in-country last week.

We’d like to share some of the initial findings from the assessments we conducted, which will inform our response in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia moving forward.


  • As part of a humanitarian information project in Guinea, Internews has been working since the early days of the Ebola outbreak in the country to provide information about the disease itself, how to prevent it spreading, and how to treat it.
  • Experienced humanitarian journalism trainers have been deployed in Guinée Forestière (where the outbreak started), Conakry, and other cities to train media workers in the most effective ways of explaining the disease to local communities and engaging them in the fight against its spread
  • Overall, the Ebola response is working in the country, but more resources and support are needed in Guinée Forestière, which is the center of the outbreak. Coordinating with the different government, medical and other humanitarian responders needs to happen in Conakry.


Sierra Leone:

  • Reports from the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ), tasked to work with Ebola Response Committee’s Social Mobilization Sub-Committee responsible for all national messaging related to the disease, confirm that the media is acutely under-resourced to effectively respond to the crisis, and that the process is currently stalled.
  • There are indications that messages from International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) in English are trusted more, simply because they are in English and come from INGOs, while messages from the government are generally mistrusted.
  • Compounding communication challenges is the difficulty of transposing accurate but not panicky information in local languages, which have no word for “infection.”
  • Messages in local languages have to be oversimplified, which then in turn requires interpretation
  • From a technology perspective, lack of communications connectivity is problematic, however, mobile phone technology and the use of SMS is considered the most reliable means of sharing information quickly.
  • There is a real need for better communication on the risk of death associated with the disease to dispel earlier communications that stressed that there is “no cure ... if you get Ebola, you will die.” In reality, death rates are lower if people seek and are given appropriate supportive treatment. The overall result is poor messaging that is inconsistent, at times inaccurate, and ill-adapted linguistically to the needs of their audiences.
  • While in some core-affected areas such as Kailahun near the Guinea border, as well as Kenama, journalists have received some training from non-governmental organizations, it has focused solely on medical information, without addressing the need for the media to accurately report on the outbreak from an evidence-based perspective.



  • Internews’ assessment has identified a critical need for humanitarian liaison to ensure that key messages are disseminated by the media in a coordinated, coherent and harmonized way, within the context of the declaration of state of emergency.
  • Accurate information is key; target audiences of the media need to have the most timely and correct information available to them so as to make informed decisions about the risks associated with the disease, and as in Sierra Leone, not ignore other medical needs , and not assume the worst-case scenario for all medical emergencies.
  • The media can fulfil a role of honest broker in this instance, relaying vital, up to date, and credible information that will engage as broad an audience as possible to include communities, traditional leaders and health care workers.


 After this initial assessment, with your support, we can begin to bridge the gap in information and address the issues identified. On the whole, we understand that, of the most immediate needs, information is one of the most critical is fighting the spread of this disease; people need to know how to identify early symptoms, prevent transmission, what to do and where to receive medical help, especially if they live in remote rural areas. Rumours and false information proliferates in these situations. Communities need to be able to access relevant information through local media sources and platforms that they trust, in languages that they understand. Local media are a vital partner for agencies seeking to provide information about risk and assistance options, and an important tool to counter the rumours and false information. However only too frequently, local media themselves lack accurate and timely information, lack experience in reporting health emergencies, do not have well established contacts with the appropriate health authorities or service providers, and lack the resources to carry out the required reporting.

Thank you for partnering with us to address this very serious challenge. We will continue to update you on our progress.

In the meantime, we encourage you to share this project with your friends, family, and colleagues. For a limited time, the Paul G. Allen Foundation will be matching donations 100% for GlobalGiving projects supporting the treatment and prevention of the spread of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. There are $100,000 available in matching funds for this effort.

Please consider telling your friends and family about our project - share the link on your blogs or social networks, use the tell-a-friend feature on the project page to email your network, or just bring us up in conversation. You know your friends and family best, so use your own words - tell them why you chose our project and what it means to you.


Thank you again for all you have done to support Internews and our mission.


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Organization Information


Location: Washington, DC - USA
Project Leader:
Amanda Frankel
Washington, DC United States

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