“Everyone I met was determined to beat Ebola so that they can resume their normal lives,” said Bloom after meeting with religious and youth leaders in the capital Monrovia. “Communities have been at the center of the fight against Ebola and must continue to be supported because of their crucial role in getting to zero cases.”
Peer educators have played an important role in the Ebola response, including adolescent girls and boys in the A-Life project in West Point, a poor and densely populated neighborhood in Monrovia. Meeting with Bloom, representatives of the group explained how their volunteers had reached more than 25,000 people to raise awareness on how their community members could avoid getting ill and stop the spread of the virus.
At a primary school in a severely affected community on the border with Sierra Leone, Bloom observed the Ebola school safety protocols that were introduced when schools reopened after a seven-month shutdown. These protocols, introduced with UNICEF support to reduce the risk of transmission, include taking children’s temperatures when they arrive to school and making them wash their hands before entering the classroom.
“Because of this outbreak, a million children in Liberia have had their school year cut in half,” said Bloom. “They’re excited to be back in the classroom but the precautions that every single one of them must follow every day are a reminder of the need to remain vigilant.”
Across the sub-region the Ebola virus has infected more than 24,000 people – including over 5,000 children – and has killed nearly 10,000.
Ebola cases have been declining in the sub-region, but the battle is far from over. While the fight continues, efforts to rebuild health, education and social protection systems are prioritized.
Bloom, well known for roles in blockbuster films such as The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in October 2009. Last year he traveled to Jordan to meet children and families impacted by the Syrian crisis.