Joshua* is looking forward to returning to school after classes were shut down for months during the Ebola crisis. Photo credit: Aubrey Wade.
Phil Carroll 267.992.6356 (M)
Monrovia, Liberia (Feb. 16, 2015) — Save the Children is actively supporting the long-anticipated re-opening of hundreds of schools in Liberia today following a six-month educational hiatus due to the Ebola crisis.
The move comes after weeks of steady declines in the number of new Ebola cases in Liberia, which, at the peak of the epidemic in mid-2014, was reporting more than 300 cases a week, but recorded only three new cases for the week ending February 8, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"This is obviously a time for much celebration for a country that has been ravaged by the worst Ebola outbreak in history," said Save the Children's Liberia country director, Greg Duly.
"However, we must be sure that schools re-open safely so that students and parents won't fear a flare-up of the disease. It is more important than ever to remain vigilant as we send Liberia's most precious resource back to school."
The Government of Liberia has established strict guidelines to ensure that school children return to an Ebola-free environment, including the provision of hand washing facilities; accurate non-contact thermometers; a small space for the temporary isolation of any suspected Ebola case; and a robust referral system with a nearby health facility.
Save the Children has been working closely with the Liberian Ministry of Education, and other local partners, to provide intensive Ebola-prevention training for teachers and community members in more than 840 schools, including helping to set up local Ebola safety committees and reliable patient transfer systems.
In 546 of these schools, the agency is also distributing hundreds of safety kits comprising of digital thermometers, chlorine, soap, buckets, brooms, educational posters, and rubber gloves and rain boots, as well as providing hand washing facilities and reliable water supplies.
"Now is not the time to let our guard down, despite the tremendous progress we've made against this disease," Duly said.
"More than half of Liberia's schools lack a reliable water supply, suffer from poor building and general infrastructure, and don't have adequate educational supplies. In light of this situation, the re-opening date of 16 February should be seen as a starting point and not an end date."
More than one million children in Liberia were affected by the closure of schools as a result of the Ebola outbreak.
Over the last six months, Save the Children has been working with local communities to help spread Ebola prevention messages, and develop innovative approaches to learning, including teacher training, radio-based education, and the distribution of learning materials to children in their homes.
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