How Can Business Fight Ebola? Beyond “Gift-in-Kind”

By Kathryn Taetzsch, World Vision

How Can Business Fight Ebola? Beyond “Gift-in-Kind”

Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia’s Assistant Minister of Health stated recently: “We must use this momentum not just to get back to where we were, but to build up health systems to last beyond this crisis and into the next.” (Devex, 3 Pitfalls Ebola Recovery must avoid, May 2015).

While there is need to see opportunities for local empowerment of business, to contribute beyond donations to address humanitarian crisis and pandemics in particular, the question of how international and local business could improve working with Governments and other humanitarian actors to be better prepared for, respond to global epidemics, natural disasters, and facilitate early recovery in post-disaster/ epidemics’ contexts – is highly relevant.

How can Sierra Leone – that has not yet been declared “Ebola-Free” – ensure that international attention and support and national social mobilization efforts can be effectively directed towards the recovery of the pandemic? According to a recent survey,”operating non-farm household enterprises are seeing revenues well below what they earned before the crisis – a 54 percent drop from the Labor Force Survey conducted in July-August 2014″ (The Socio-Economic Impacts by EVD in SL, April 2015; World Bank, IPA, Statistics SL), and most of those affected enterprises are small-scale female entrepreneurs. How can local business build back better – for any future crisis shock?

Collaboration with micro-finance service providers, short- term and targeted cash/ voucher programming and community based micro-finance support sustainable local and national safety nets build community and business resilience (as is envisaged for Sierra Leone) is one essential building block for effective recovery AND preparedness. Can resource sharing, innovative ways of integrating successful new approaches, skills in the Ebola response be scaled up? World Vision explores how “Safe and Dignified Burial Teams’ staff” and skills could help in post-crisis Health System Strengthening or through targeted vocational skills trainings/ entrepreneurship training – working with Chamber of Commerce entities and others? World Vision Sierra Leone has promoted these collaborations, and is building on emerging partnerships with telecommunications service providers to support mobile money transfers and voucher interventions, linking this with vocational skills trainings and job-attachments that are facilitated by local business. Financial start-up kits for business start-ups, linking with members of community that have emerged from the 450 savings and loans groups that World Vision Sierra Leone is continuing to support and group members that are being coached to start their entrepreneurial dream. The power and ownership of local business to drive economic recovery is tangible.

For almost 20 years, World Vision Sierra Leone has partnered with local communities, government ministries and other development organizations to improve health, education, food security and protection for children. World Vision works through 25 area development programs benefiting more than 58,000 children and their families.

When the EVD epidemic began in May 2014, World Vision Sierra Leone collaborated closely with existing community partners. With the support of donors, World Vision Sierra Leone reached 1.56 million people with life-saving interventions. World Vision’s innovative collaboration with the EU, the Government of Sierra Leone, private sector and academia, through Janssen Pharmaceutical, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Grameen Foundation, utilizing MOTECH suite (a modular, extensible open source software project originally designed for mobile health (mHealth)) using mobile technology to communicate information to patients, collect data, alert caregivers to patients’ status, and schedule caregivers’ work), and other partners, showcases the opportunity for responsive and creative joint effort to address Ebola and other pandemic challenges in a new and effective way.

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