WCI’s Approach to Communication on the Ground
In a conversation with Wilfred Kokeh, WCI field officer for Lofa, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh Counties, in February in Kakata, he talked about how WCI has applied its social mobilization skills to support USAID, UNICEF, and the government of Liberia’s response to the Ebola virus.
Mr. Kokeh explained that WCI’s approach differs from most other NGOs in that it is “bottom-to-top” to effect change. The overriding goal of WCI is to help people help themselves by working within their own communities to help their neighbors learn how to work independently, and create sustainable livelihoods. WCI does this by being community-oriented and what activities it starts it eventually transfers to local authorities to continue.
For the Ebola outbreak, Mr. Kokeh said that WCI “knew how to respond [to the outbreak]” from their democracy work “going door-to-door in the community.” He went on to say that “they have been successful doing exactly that” and it has made a difference in Ebola.
When the first Ebola cases were reported in Lofa County in early 2014, it spread quickly throughout the communities. WCI was working in the community on civic participation in run up to the elections and in August 2014 was asked by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to apply its social mobilization skills to the Ebola hotspots to deliver public health messaging and logistics for the delivery of food and water.
Mr. Kokeh succinctly summed up why WCI was asked to perform this activity, [WCI] was’ “not recognized as experts in Ebola, but […] as experts in Liberia.”
WCI is a unique NGO because of its close ties and relationships to the communities where it works. Community members interviewed talked of how they “felt relief” when they saw that NGOs including WCI were part of the Ebola response, and they became worried when stories circulated that the NGOs were leaving.
Wyeatta Willet Moore, WCI field manager for Montserado and Grand Bassa Counties, reiterated this response from the communities: “like after the [civil] war – NGOs coming in gave us hope and a return to normalcy.”
The Critical Role of Women in the Ebola Response
WCI is women-centric and its core principles are to elevate the role of women in society with an emphasis on the rural, low-literate, and poor. In its Ebola social mobilization gender plays a role. It is estimated 90 percent of their mobilizers and communicators are women; the mobilizers live in the communities where they are conducting the work; and they are trusted and respected members of their community – teachers, midwives, pastors, and business women.
WCI is a partner in the USAID Ebola-Community Action Platform (E-CAP) working in Liberia.
WCI has five field managers assigned to five regions in Liberia. Each field officer is responsible for approximately 40 mobilizers and 50 communicators. Wilfred Kokeh is the field manager for Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties that cover a geographic area of 1000 miles. Wyeatta Willet Moore is field manager of Montserado County that includes Monrovia and Grand Bassa County. Morris Taweh works in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gborpolu; Binda Freeman oversees Bong, Magribi and River Cess Counties; and Dominic Dennis is field manager for Southeast Liberia – River Gee, Maryland, Sineo and Grand Kru Counties.