Liberi­ans say ‘no’ to hugs and hand­shakes to keep Ebola at bay

Africa Renewal - - Contents - By Franck Ku­wonu and Lisa White* *Lisa White works for the UN Mis­sion in Liberia.

At the en­trances to pri­vate and pub­lic build­ings in Mon­rovia, Liberia’s cap­i­tal, a new cus­tom has emerged since the out­break of the Ebola virus: vis­i­tors wash their hands upon en­ter­ing and ex­it­ing. Tap buck­ets con­ve­niently placed in hall­ways dis­pense a mix­ture of wa­ter and chlo­rine or bleach from which peo­ple wash their hands.

Gone are some of Liberi­ans’ en­dear­ing so­cial rit­u­als such as a kiss on the cheek, friendly hugs or hand­shakes, or warm em­braces be­tween par­ents and chil­dren. Since the Ebola out­break, au­thor­i­ties have been ad­vis­ing the pub­lic to be more hy­gienic, in­clud­ing fre­quent wash­ing of hands and avoid­ing phys­i­cal con­tact with bod­ily flu­ids from the sick or dead bod­ies.

Tra­di­tional fam­ily care prac­tices and burial rit­u­als that in­volve close con­tact with an in­fected body have con­trib­uted to the rapid spread of the dis­ease. Cus­tom­ar­ily, Liberi­ans wash, clean and dress the re­mains of their loved ones be­fore in­ter­ment.

Peo­ple have also been warned against eat­ing game meat, what Liberi­ans call bush meat. In ru­ral ar­eas, bush meat is an im­por­tant source of pro­tein and in­come for hunters. Com­mu­ni­ties are be­ing com­pelled to change their di­ets. Ex­perts be­lieve fruit bats are the car­ri­ers of the virus.

Ebola has changed the way peo­ple re­late to each other at home and at work.

AP/Ab­bas Dulleh

Liberia’s Pres­i­dent Ellen John­son Sir­leaf, right, and U. S. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Sa­man­tha Power give each other the ‘Ebola hand­shake’ at a news con­fer­ence in Mon­rovia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.