UNDP Helps Pay Ebola Workers In Liberia

The United Nations development Programme (UNDP) has helped the Liberian government pay thousands of Ebola workers. Over $1 million dollars in cash payments were distributed across the country in January alone.

The workers were hired at the height of the crisis to help run treatment centers, help communities prevent transmission and track people that have had contact with victims. Many worked tirelessly without pay for months as the country struggled to cope with the epidemic.

“One of the biggest challenges was determining who should be paid. At the start of the process we didn’t even have a list of names” said Stuart Kefford, UNDP’s project manager for health worker payments. “We worked with the Ministry of Health and the county health teams to develop the lists. Then we had a list of names and pay rates for different job categories but still needed to verify that the people identified for payments were those that were working.” “It was only after two months of work, travelling across the country to remote regions, verifying the lists, talking with NGOs to make sure people weren’t getting paid twice, that we were able to start the actual payments” Mr. Kefford said.

Having located the right employees, the next challenge was to get them paid. Banks were not an option, Mr. Kefford explained.  “The banking system has never been profitable. Liberia is primarily a cash-based economy and around half of the health workers don’t have bank accounts. Most people outside Monrovia tend to survive on a day-to-day basis and there is little need to open a bank account, so the only answer was to take cash out to these people”.

Teams visited every county, working late into the night to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to the most remote areas so the workers could finally be paid everything they were owed. In Lofa County, where Ebola was first detected in Liberia, the lack of pay was starting to have an impact.

“It started to get difficult to keep people motivated,” said G. Garpu Morris, a District Health Officer. “They were committed to getting rid of Ebola, but they were struggling financially themselves.”

“Now we’ve been Ebola free for a month, we’ve reached a new stage in the response – we need to stay vigilant, test people at the checkpoints, monitor anyone who comes to our district and ensure that the health workers are there to respond when people come to clinics with symptoms” he added.

Garmai McKay Subawo manages the contact tracers in Salayea District. She hadn’t been paid since August, but has now received $1200 for her four months of work. “This will make it much easier to get the contact tracers out there in the communities so that Ebola never returns to Lofa” she said.
The project was conducted in partnership with the United Nations Mission for Emergency Ebola Response (UNMEER).
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For further information, contact: Augusta Pshorr –Communications Analyst E-mail: augusta.pshorr@undp.org Tel: +231-770-003-819/886-521-425

Sam Zota –National UNV Communications Associate Email: zotasam@gmail.com Tel: +231-886-474-563/770175162

Carly Learson- carly.learson@gmail.com Tel: +231-0770003918

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Author: D K Sengbeh

Danicius Kaihenneh Sengbeh (author of Sengbeh's Weblog) is a respected and renowned Liberian journalist, poet and writer with with journalism experience since 2001, of working both as a mainstream journalist and a communication/media consultant in Liberia. He is Secretary General of the Press Union of Liberia (elected Dec 2013). He was Assistant Secretary General of the Union Dec 2011 to Dec 2013. He is also Editor-In-Chief of The Informer Newspaper—one of Liberia’s credible dailies. Before joining the Informer, Danicius had served as reporter, chief reporter, sub-editor and News Editor at The Independent Newspaper between 2002 and 2006. Before then, he was reporter at the defunct Patriot Newspaper and Kiss FM 2001-2002. Danicius is a UN Media Fellow and Liberia’s first UN Medal Award-winning journalist for his contribution to journalism and for being the second Liberian journalist in 15 years to qualify for and successfully attended the United Nations’ Reham Al-Farra Memorial Journalist Fellowship Program in New York and Geneva, Switzerland in 2012. He earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Mass Communication and Sociology from the University of Liberia and a Diploma in Journalism from the International School of Journalism. He holds several awards and recognitions both in and outside of journalism, and carries dozens of certificates in journalism and communication from studies in Ghana, China, United States and Switzerland, among others. He volunteers as Chair of the Information and Communication Committee of his local Bardnersville community. He can be quickly reached via (+231) 886586531/777586531/777464018/ dakasen1978@yahoo.com

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