At the end of a four-day visit to Ebola-affected communities in Liberia, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador and actor Orlando Bloom praised the efforts of people there who have been combatting the deadly virus.
“Everyone I met was determined to beat Ebola so that they can resume their normal lives,” said Mr. Bloom after meeting with religious and youth leaders in the capital, Monrovia. “Communities have been at the centre of the fight against Ebola and must continue to be supported because of their crucial role in getting to zero cases.”
Mr. Bloom met representatives of A-Life, a peer education project in a poor and densely populated neighbourhood in Monrovia. Representatives of A-Life explained how their volunteers had reached more than 25,000 people, including adolescent girls and boys, raising awareness on how community members could avoid getting ill and stop the spread of the virus.
He also visited a primary school in a severely affected community on the border with Sierra Leone, where he saw Ebola school safety protocols in action, having been introduced when schools reopened after a seven-month shutdown.
The protocols, introduced with UNICEF support, aim to reduce the risk of transmission of a disease that has infected more than 24,000 people – including over 5,000 children – and has killed nearly 10,000. They involve taking children’s temperatures when they arrive at school and making them wash their hands before entering the classroom.
While Ebola cases have been declining in the sub-region, the battle is far from over. As the fight to eradicate the disease continues, efforts to rebuild health, education and social protection systems are being prioritised.
“Because of this outbreak, a million children in Liberia have had their school year cut in half,” said Mr. 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.”
The actor, 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, and his trip to Liberia follows a visit to Jordan in 2014, where he met children and families impacted by the Syrian crisis.