Getting to zero with Ebola and building back for a better future

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have undertaken remarkable efforts to fight the devastating Ebola Virus (EVD) epidemic, with the support of the international community. These countries now are focused on changing from a situation of an emergency operation toward one of multi-faceted long-term support and development.

Article | 10 juillet 2015
In lead-up to the International Conference on the Ebola Recovery, the United Nations convened a technical meeting for the three countries severely affected by the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) crisis to present their holistic perspective of the strategic roadmap to recovery and beyond.

Additionally, it provided an opportunity for an open discussion between the government, the private sector, workers organizations, the donor community and other partners. Participants discussed short to medium recovery plans as well as some of the lessons learned which can improve response and longer-term development and clearly outline priorities for the coming two years.

The discussions were separated into four thematic sessions: 1) health, nutrition and WASH; 2) governance, peacebuilding and social cohesion; 3) Basic Services: education, social and child protection services; and 4) socio-economic revitalization.

The International Labour Organization and UNICEF were the co-leads on the Basic Services panel and the following video and key points excerpted by the Rapporteur provides an in-depth look at the discussions.

Panel Members
  • Mme. Sanata Kaba, Minister of Social Action, Women and Children Promotion, Guinea
  • Mr. George Werner, Minister of Education, Liberia
  • Dr Minkailu BAH, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Sierra Leone
  • Dr. Jasper Goss, Public Service International, Representative of Social and Health Workers
  • Mr. Emmanuel Abdulai, Society for Democratic Initiatives, Sierra Leone
  • Special Envoy for Ebola, Government of Netherlands
  • Mr Ted Chaiban, Director of Programs, UNICEF.
  • Mr Aeneas CHuma, Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Africa, ILO.
  1. Central role of education for better future and more resilient societies in social and economic terms. Education is a good example of how the leadership of governments and engagement between ministries, local and international partners made back to school a success.
  2. Importance of addressing gender inequalities to reboot the changes in societal behaviours that are as crucial to recovery as Ebola. Rebuilding societies by changing behaviours and stopping violence against children, girls and women, female genital mutilation, early marriage and access to education for girls are as much priorities as tackling the health risk of Ebola.
  3. Social protection systems need to re-stablished and strengthened to bring minimum protection guarantees to families, communities and workers. Public service workers must be recognized and benefit from training opportunities and a better protection system and training opportunities. Community health workers need to be included into the health workforce as remunerated personnel
  4. Build strong community systems linked to national systems for equitable distribution of resources. Communities need to be empowered with knowledge and resources. Community participation needs to be part of the governance of basic services and mutual accountability mechanisms need to be in place
  5. Increased Fiscal space is needed to support national spending in social sectors and build a social workers force. These sectors are to be understood as highly productive investments. Innovative taxation mechanisms needed in line with realities of Ebola countries.
  6. Reform and good governance of social sectors require more investments into national social sector infrastructures. External partners should work through national institutions to reinforce them. It should be avoided to create new institutions that will bear unnecessary costs and could be better invested into national institutions that will bring accountability and public trust.

Sierra Leone - Minister of Education

  • Engage communities by linking national actors that were not used to work together in the past;
  • The role of public services workers must be recognized and they must be part of the Ebola Recovery to ensure their experience and acquired understanding reinforces the chances of success for future efforts;
  • Education system was a good example of intersectoral work and good partnership;
  • Teachers need to be offered training opportunities and good work conditions;
  • Diaspora: some left when Ebola struck. We want them to come back. Many have come back;
  • Development Partners should not create parallel institutions. Parallel structures that are put in place don’t build capacity of government institutions;

Liberia - Minister of Education

  • Leadership: National leadership by President herself made the difference;
  • Liberia called on a coordinator to act between partners and Government line ministries from different policy areas to work on the Education sector;
  • “We need not only building back, but build back better”;
  • What are statistics telling us ? we need rebuilding our capacities;
  • “We have to do things differently – it cannot be comme d’habitude”;
  • ”Ebola has revealed to us many things we knew but did not take seriously before. We need reforms urgently;

Guinea - Minister of Social Action

  • « Les Enfants sont Devenus des Adultes. C’est Ebola qui a fait cela ».
    • Orienter vers une éducation Inclusive.
    • entretien des écoles
  • Rebuilding of societies by changing behaviours.:
  • « Mutilations, mariage précoce, violence contre les filles. et la déscolarisation sont des fléaux tout aussi pires que Ebola. Qui emp^cheront de progresser s’ils ne sont pas adressés pour un future meilleur»
  • Sociological factors and gender inequality are fundamental to be tackled if we want better societies in future.
  • “Bringing gender equality would improve the life of all and make living standards better all all stages of the life cycle.

Netherlands - Special Envoy for Ebola

  • The progress in the three countries inspires confidence.
  • Before Ebola, there was little understanding how population perceived public basic services. Ebola has opened eyes of the population as to what they should expect from basic services. Governments know what people need better.
  • Development Partners: “Ebola was a shared fight.” “it was a fight also against fear and panic at global level..”
  • “Ebola has put us flat back on our back and forced to find new ways of working”
  • Governments need to be in charge of the Ebola Recovery
  • Focus on economic growth. Social sectors cannot develop if domestic revenues eventually to be self-sustaining.
  • Must create a good enabling environment raising taxes for countries to build up their own country’s systems with sustainable means not killing businesses.

NGO representative

  • Civil society and international organizations have a common goal during the crisis
  • Delivery of basic services – Fair and Transparent use of social benefits across communities need to be monitored through accountable country systems.
  • Decentralization of policies, inclusion of traditional rulers, herbalists, youth clubs to be conveners of healthy messages.
  • Use of existing traditional structures to engage in a dialogue with communities, using their own mechanisms
  • “those that don’t use radios or cellphones sit around the bonfire”

Public Service International - Public Services Workers Representative

  • Health and social workers took a high risk in this crisis. May died and replace that human capital requires commitment although it is difficult.
  • Quality Public Services: require allowing safe and secure working conditions for those delivering public services.
  • Ebola highlighted how social protection systems were not prepared for a crisis. Health workers could not benefit from pre-established social protection to provide them with Workers’ Compensation for those who died and their families
  • Need to raise more resources to face needs for social sectors.
  • Innovative taxation mechanisms to help fund systems and public services need to be put in place.

UNICEF - Director of Programmes

  • Central role of Education to restore sense of normalcy and give hope.
  • Overcome the gender gap is key to restore inclusive and equitable social services.
  • UNICEF advocates for the formal inclusion of Community Health workers in the health system
  • Increased Fiscal space is needed to support national spending in social sectors and build a social workers force. These sectors are to be understood as highly productive investments.

ILO - Regional Director for Africa

  • Creation of new institutions. External partners should work through national institutions to reinforce them and exisiing insitutuions are under-funded. Without creating new insitutions that will bear a cost.
  • A multisectoral challenge. Governments need to bring new parnters, such as Workers Representatives, Employers and private Sector Organisations.
  • How to have a different more effective approach towards sustainable livelihoods: investment on building social sectors, not only big infrastructures.