As President of People’s Foundation Africa, an organization working with marginalized and hard to reach communities in Liberia and across Africa, Kula Fofana knew that reaching people early with messages about the arrival of COVID-19 was going to be crucial: “Even before the first cases were reported in Liberia, I was already involved in community awareness campaigns. Rumors and myths about the virus were spreading fast, so a lot of our initial response was about sensitization—talking to people about how the virus spreads and how to stay safe, and sharing hand-washing kits.”
After participating in the inaugural Amujae Leadership Forum in March, Kula began work on awareness programs. Coming from a region that was particularly badly hit by Ebola, she wanted to stay ahead of the curve and apply the lessons learned from the past. This included working with both public and private sector stakeholders to respond to the pandemic and support her county’s health teams. This effort has now been formalized and adopted into an action plan called the Grand Cape Mount County COVID-19 Official Response. “The history of Ebola has made people more open to getting involved in COVID-19 response, because we knew that early actions would be key. Reaching out to communities that were hit particularly hard by Ebola is actually easier, as they already understand the importance of sanitization.”
She is serving as the chairperson of the Grand Cape Mount County COVID-19 Response Committee, which has raised nearly $20,000 to support the county and its health team on awareness and response. She noted that “this is the first time that the county is coming together across political, social and economic lines to work collectively to deal with a common enemy.”
Her role as chairperson sees her leading the various teams within the committee, galvanizing support, directing resources and manpower, and informing the public about their efforts, with key measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In addition to this work, Kula has launched an effort to support pregnant women during the crisis. Many healthcare centers have closed to prepare for dealing with COVID-19, leaving women without the pre-natal support they need. Kula and her team are gathering donations of the essential items that pregnant or birthing women need. They are preparing and distributing “Moses bags,” containing items such clothing for newborn babies and children, baby lotion, soap, diapers, wipes, baby beds and nets, face masks, and food.
Kula also organized birth classes with OBGYN’s and registered midwives, enabling the women to ask important questions about both general birth preparedness and COVID-19 prevention. Curfews in the area have made travel difficult, so she has also worked to create a register of drivers that are able to help transport pregnant women who need medical attention during curfew hours.
The inaugural Amujae Leadership Forum has helped Kula shape her response to the crisis: “I learned a lot about galvanizing local resources and I have been building on these lessons to work effectively with others and mobilize my networks. While all of my current focus is on addressing COVID-19, the Forum has helped me think more about how to bring people together for the good of the community in the future.”
Kula added: “I hope to continue to connect with my fellow Amujae Leaders throughout the program. The conversations I had at the Forum have added perspective to my work, and I hope there will be opportunities to use our shared platform to elevate our stories to a wider audience.”